16 and Pregnant…..and Black

      I am addicted to this tv series on MTY, 16 and Pregnant, that is! I watch for several reasons:  1) it amazes me how these young people are disillusioned by the demands of parenthood at such a young age; 2) it actually enlightens me because young people tell it like it is, no sugarcoating anything and since I am anticipating motherhood and 3)  the teens profiled are typically rural or suburban, white teens whose whole outlook on their future is different from the teen moms I know!

     I remember when I was 16, I think 25% of my friends either had an abortion, miscarriage or actually delivered a baby.  That was back in the 80’s when teen pregnancy was on the rise, before the decline in the early 90’s only to increase somewhere around 2002.  I mean when I think about those friends, particularly the ones that had a baby by the time they were 19, they all have something in common.  The most significant commonalities are that they all came from single parent households, they all dropped out of school (and did not go back for a diploma or GED) and to date, are living below or at poverty.   Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part many of them, including the ones that the elders in the neighborhood believed had the most potential, just did not go far economically, geographically or professionally.  The statistics pretty much substantiate what I experienced myself, see http://www.familyfirstaid.org/teen-pregnancy.html.

     It was not until I started handling cases in Family Court in New York that I realized that what I always believed to be a myth is actually a truth, teenage pregnancy is typically generational.  That is, typically the mother (or father for that matter) of a teenage parent was a teenage parent his or herself.  Despite the fact that I have a large number of mid 30’s-early 40’s year old friends who are grandparents, I never actually realized that their child was pretty much destined to follow the same path.  See I have always been an optimist, thinking that cycles can be broken with effort and diligence and so some things like, preventing teenage pregnancy,was certainly one that required minimal effort on part of the teenager’s parent(s).  But even the most remarkable parents, and I have seen many parents who were teen moms do exceptional jobs with their children, have to acknowledge the proclivity of their child to make the same decisions and choices that result in parenthood at an early age.  Many of these parents fail to appreciate that admonitions and incessant lecturing is not enough.   In fact, many of the same warnings that are effective with teens whose moms were much older do not work with children of teen moms, a little more is definitely necessary. 

     One major deterrent is a teen who has a strong emotional bond with both parents whether they are in the same home or not, this teen is much more likely to engage in sex at a much later age, to be more knowledgeable about and have access to contraception and in many instances, when faced with a pregnancy will make decisions based on their future aspirations.  Many still think the notion of having a strong attachment to two parents who are no longer together is asinine.  On the contrary, mature, responsible and emotionally balance parents can do a superb job raising children despite the dissolution of their relationship. 

      What does teen pregnancy have to do with the Black family?  Well, depending on the source, Black teens still lead the overall population in teen births.  (See guttmacher.org and their recent studies)  Whether this is true or not, the problem is that the Black family is on a continual path of destruction if we continue to allow the rate to increase even slightly.  Regardless of all the financial ramifications, the societal burdens, yadda, yadda, yadda!on us all, Black families will become a heightened misnomer if we do not become proactive in prevention.  Parent.family involvement, sex education, conflict resolution are just are few places to start.

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