To what degree has the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy influenced society’s views concerning socially excluding teenage parents?
Social exclusion can be both a cause and consequence for teenage parents. This writing will cover the topic of social exclusion targeted towards adolescents who become pregnant. The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy is the vital component to the research around whether the social exclusion for the age group and the extent to how this policy has diminished rejection towards teenagers.
Around 40,000 young women become pregnant each year.
Adolescence is a period of life in which society perceives individuals of the age group as being at a more vulnerable time of their life than one who has developed into adulthood. Teenagers may live a more dangerous lifestyle due to experimentation and push boundaries to see how far they can go without consequence. At this life stage, teenagers may not always act as they do not take into consideration how dangerous risk-taking can affect.
Due to the majority of adolescent’s acting care-free, it is clear why teenage parents are perceived negatively by society – primarily when referring to pregnancy. The critical problem with this theory is that community does not view teenagers as individuals but judge them as a category.
This dissertation will be introducing and focussing on the multiply excluded group of teenage parents, and the social exclusion adolescent mothers receive from society. Parenthood is well-known for being exhausting around the clock job that can be troublesome for even the most durable couples. 42% of marriages end in divorce, and almost half of the divorces involve children under the age of sixteen. 27% of couples that were cohabiting when their child was born will have separated by the time the child is aged five.
It is desirable for new parents to have a network of support from both family and friends and be secure in their finances. Teenagers are less likely to be in a situation where they can adequately provide by themselves; being less finically stable could illustrate as to why society feel bitter towards the idea of young couples starting a family. The majority of the community would socially exclude teenage parents based on opinions and continue to stereotype young people for being too immature to take on the responsibility of a family. However, there is an inconsistency with this argument as it does not account for those teenagers who do have the support of partners, family and friends.
It is a widely held view that the transition into adulthood is a difficult period in life. With the responsibility of a newborn child, teenage parents are putting themselves at a disadvantage regarding preparing for adulthood individually before taking the step to have children. Klor and Lapin (2011) emphasise that adolescence is a period of significant growth and change, with teenagers experiencing physical, emotional and social transitions. These changes interlinked with the developments in an individual becoming a parent can be seen as overwhelming when going through both life stages at one time.
Society’s perception of young parents can be prejudice as many teenagers that have children to claim welfare benefits at the tax payer’s expense. Another factor relating to this issue is property; teenage parents do often receive help with social housing to help support and provide for their children. A house is a possession that the majority of young people who do not have children work hard and save deposits up to have this luxury. Such beliefs that related to teenage pregnancy has led the nation to believe that all adolescent relationships set out to plan a pregnancy with bad intentions and not in the best interests of a child.
Research on the topic has also led society to identify teenage fathers as incompetent. The subject of fatherhood will be touched upon to recognise the social exclusion adolescent fathers experience due to stigmatisation. Would reasoning behind adolescent fathers not being present have something to do with the majority of support networks only being available to teenage mothers?
Ethnical background has been highlighted in affecting conception rates in the UK, with different cultures holding religious beliefs that conception cannot be used during the act of sex.
Becoming a parent at an early age is strongly associated with educational underachievement and deprivation, Evans and Slowley (2010). Pessimistic viewpoints and the figures of teenage pregnancy in the UK highlight as one of the country’s foremost issues, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy was introduced, and a plan was structured to help alleviate the problem.
In 1999, the UK Labour Government launched a ten-year Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (TPS) for England to address the countries with historically high rates and reduce social exclusion. The goal was to halve the under 18 conception rates by 2010. The TPS was locally delivered to ensure areas of high teenage pregnancy rates were getting the support they needed. The strategy had four themes:joined up the action by national and local government, better prevention through improved sex and relationships education and young people’s access to adequate contraception; a national campaign to reach young people and parents; and coordinated support for young parents.
A section of writing will be outlining in further detail what the TPS is and analysing what extent the policy met its aims at reducing teenage pregnancy rates in the UK. The focus will be on the successfulness of the strategy regarding its set out purposes – but it will consider whether there was a conscious effort to support teenagers in the decision to have a family and help eliminate social exclusion. The effectiveness of the strategy at a local level will also be highlighted to identify if conception rates in specific areas have drastically reduced. An evaluation of the reasoning behind why the policy was successful or not will also be researched to see how the socially excluded group have gained support in the ten-year period.
With the research compelled together in this piece of writing and comparing the evidence from different sources on the impact this policy has had, a relevant conclusion on the social exclusion for teenage parents can be compiled. The outcome will aim to evaluate the impact the TPS has had on teenage parents and to what extent it has met the intentional aims and if it has been successful in reducing social exclusion.
With promises within the strategy mentioning there will be coordinated support for teenage parents, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy does not attempt to distinguish whether the social exclusion for the age group is valid as the policy appears to be focussing mainly on reducing conception rates in the UK rather than have young parents accepted. The government’s approach means that the plans could be agreeing that teenage pregnancy is a “problem” and continuing to exclude the group socially. Hence the interest in the question:
To what degree has the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy influenced society’s views concerning socially excluding teenage parents?
There have been many attempts at trying to summarise the definition of social exclusion. All socially excluded groups have characteristics in common which have determined their fate in becoming isolated in society. Factors can include poverty, unemployment, homelessness, family breakdown, educational failure, mental or physical health and crime. Teenage pregnancy and early motherhood can be associated with social exclusion as reduced educational achievement, poor physical and mental health, social isolation, poverty and related factors have caused the age group to gain attention from both Government and societies. There is also a growing recognition that socio-economic disadvantage can be both a cause and a consequence of teenage motherhood (Swann et al. 2003).
All common factors relating to social exclusion do in some form relate to the working-class population, suggesting that income can influence exclusion in society. Research will be exploring outcomes of the TPS in local areas to see if the most deprived are more likely to be exposed to social exclusion.
Wilkinson and Pickett (2009) argue that all societies all social problems (including crime) have a strong association with income, is more common in the less economically well-off groups. Furthermore, the overall burden of these problems is much higher in unequal societies. They argue that communities that are more equal do better. Factors contributing to the social exclusion experienced by adolescent parents seem to have a common ground. Factors contributing towards social exclusion can be explored further to provide further understanding of the reasonings behind the negative stereotypes associated with teenage parenthood.
The reasoning behind the teenage exclusion
It is typical for teenagers to become excluded in society. Being in the age range of 13-19 alone can cause difficulties for teens. Beckett and Taylor (2010) identify that within the UK the media and public debate adolescents, teenagers and youths as problems, relating the age group to anti-social behaviour, crime, teenage pregnancy and drug and alcohol use. These topics are not regarding the issue of adolescent pregnancy; it is merely outlining that being an under the age of 20 is a tough time in a person’s life due to the struggle with being accepted. Teenagers often find it a battle to be accepted by other people in society. Klor and Lapin (2011) have highlighted that being a teen is tight, as they struggle to form their own identity, independence and becoming a new parent is an overwhelming and complicated challenge.
With teenage stereotypes concluding of disruptive and reckless behaviour, negative societal views could be based around the ethical decision on whether it is acceptable for teenagers to have a family of their own. The media portray teenagers to be excessive in partying, resulting in behaviours such as drinking and smoking. Both behaviours which have been proven to damage the health of a baby when in the womb. National surveys in the UK have consistently demonstrated lower breast-feeding rates in women under the age of twenty, and in women who leave full-time education at the age of sixteen; therefore, children of teenage mothers are less likely to realise the health benefits resulting from breastfeeding (Alison Furey, 2003).
Smoking rates in pregnant young women are higher, an important risk factor for low-birth-weight infants. A literature review suggests that young parents may lack effective parenting skills, although it can be assumed that a broad spectrum of skills exist in the group. The risk of family instability or breakdown is higher in teenage parenthood, leading to poorer environment for parenting; contributing to poorer health for their children. Teenage mothers must often interrupt their education, rely more on state benefits and have fewer employment opportunities, leading to lower income, poorer housing and poorer health. Research is indicating that it is wiser for teenagers to avoid becoming a parent at a young age with risk factors being ultimately high for the development of their children.
In terms of statistics, the age in which a teenager is legally permitted to leave school is sixteen years old, and teenagers are required to stay in the education system until the age of eighteen. This restriction means that it would be impossible to pursue a career between the ages of 13-19. Supporting claims from Wilkinson and Pickett (2009) in saying income has an association with social exclusion, the average salary for a teenager is not nearly enough as they would need to maintain a household and look after a child as well as themselves without the help of welfare state benefits.
It was confirmed in 2013 by the Department for work and pensions statisticsthat there were 361,340 under 25s claiming housing benefit. 166,579 of these (46%) are single and have children. On average, single young parents receive £103 per week in housing benefit. With all the income support given to the majority of adolescent parents it is clear why this has become another factor in supporting why society chooses to exclude the age group.
Academic sources support teenage parents in saying they do not become pregnant to receive benefits to receive priority in housing over other families (Hopkinson, 1976; Clark, 1989). More evidence brought forward by the Institute of Housing (1993) states teenage parents would not receive housing benefits if they did become pregnant. Mothers under the age of eighteen are not usually allowed to put their names on local authority housing lists (Burghes and Brown, 1995).
Not only are communities concerned about having to indirectly support teenage parents through tax payments, with abortion rates remaining high for decades it has been assumed that those aged 13-19 are merely uneducated in sexual health and contraception as the pregnancies that have occurred have not been planned nor wanted.
The National Fostering Agency (2015) says that girls who belong to families in a low social class are ten times more likely to become teenage mothers than girls from higher social levels. This data could be due to the difference in behaviours and norms within different classes. With academic sources all in agreement that social class and educational standards playing a vital role in determining whether a teenager will fall pregnant, it was crucial to include a plan to tackle the issue in the teenage pregnancy strategy, e.g. support groups. Burns (2015) found that almost a quarter of girls (22%) in care become teen mothers in England. With the care system having a relation to high reports of crime and educational underachievement, this data contributes to the evidence for the desperate need for sexual health education for teenagers.
Size of group
Around 40,000 young women become pregnant each year. Young parents attracted the attention of both the society and policy makers due to their consistently high numbers of conceptions over the past few decades. The UK has drawn attention for the importance for policy as the nation has the highest teenage birth and abortion rates in Western Europe. In 1998 the number of conceptions for teenagers aged 13-15 years old was 8,500 and for those aged 15-19 was recorded at a staggering 101,600.
Ideas that society have towards teenage pregnancy could be due to the economic issues that are attached to it. Adolescent pregnancy rates are often accumulated on the number of conceptions a year, rather than focus on how many live births have been recorded. These numbers show that teenage pregnancy is not solely a concern on how well young people will cope and be able to manage parenthood, but also to highlight how abortion rates are far too high as a nation. Around three-quarters of teenage pregnancies are unplanned and half end in abortion. With the abortion rate being consistently high for the UK it raises interest in how much of a burden this is having on funding for the National Health Service. French (2009) has raised the issue that it only costs around £18 to supply contraception to a person under the age of 18, while the estimated cost of one abortion is around £750. With statistics showing the total number of abortions in the UK 1998 for teenagers aged 13-15 averaging at 4,400 and a total of 38,400 abortions for those aged 15-19, this would have had a high toll on budgeting and cost the NHS an estimated £32 million.
Although the focal point of risk-taking is in teenagers becoming pregnant, it is essential to identify that aborting a baby can also have equally damaging effects on a young mother. Most young women do not make a definite choice to become pregnant (Bury, 1984; Hudson and Ineichen, 1991) and can therefore become resentful about the ideology of going long term in their pregnancy, resulting in termination of their child. Abortion can have both physical and mental strains, and there is insufficient support out there for teenagers to help overcome these issues.
Half of sixteen-year olds and two-thirds of sixteen to nineteen-year olds who conceive continue with their pregnancies. Necessitating strategies for the support of teenage parents as well as preventing pregnancies in the first place is a crucial factor in what the TPS aims to achieve.
After an abortion has taken place symptoms of post-abortion stress can include feelings of guilt, grief, or a sense of loss and anger. Some women may be feeling the need to ‘replace’ the baby they have lost. They may also feel a sense of distance from their other children. They may have difficulties in maintaining a normal routine and feel rather more depressed than just ‘a little sadness’. Other adverse reactions can include sleeping problems, flashbacks, tearfulness, disturbing dreams or nightmares and an inability to be near babies or pregnant women. In severe cases, a woman can become suicidal, self-harming, indulge in risk-taking behaviours, become dependent on drugs or alcohol or suffer anxiety or panic attacks. These symptoms can occur at any stage after an abortion, sometimes triggered by another loss later. With emotional well-being at stake with the social exclusion of teenage parents, it is apparent that a plan was needed to be implemented to support young parents going through such difficult times.
With explanations of exclusion towards teenage parents being clear, the importance of help for the age group was high to reduce unplanned pregnancies and provide support for those who have made a choice to go full term in their pregnancy. Due to the number of conceptions staying consistently high, the government introduced the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy to help those in the age range. The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (TPS) in England was published in June 1999 that set goals to both halve the under 18 conception rates by 2010 and provide support to teenage parents to reduce the long-term risk of social exclusion by increasing the proportion in education, training and employment.
The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy
General information on TPS:
The first round of Local Implementation Funding (LIF) was made in March, 2000, according to the merits of strategic plans and local needs. In total £63 million was invested in the strategy between 1999 and 2003 (5 million in 1999-2000; £16 million in 2000-2001, and £21 million in each of 2001-02 and 2002-03), mostly through LIF, but around £2 million a year per year each for the national media campaign and sexwise.
Teenage pregnancy was considered a societal problem in the UK before the implementation of the TPS. The Tories were sufficiently worried about teenage pregnancy to make its reduction one of the aims of their Health of The Nation (HOTN) initiative, which ran from 1992-1997. The HOTN target was to halve rates among 13- to 15-year-olds (from 9.6 to 4.8 per 1000) by the year 2000(Adler, 1997). With goals not being reached, when the New Labour government were in the chair in 1997, teenage pregnancy continued to be seen as a problem but had been dealt with in an altogether different way.
The newly elected Labour government reinvigorated interest in the issue by making reductions in youthful conception rates a central focus of its efforts to tackle social exclusion: teenage motherhood was identified as a critical consequence, and cause, of social exclusion. The Social Exclusion Unit believed that there were three critical reasons for why the UK birth rate was so high; ignorance, mixed messages and low expectations. The TPS was determined to target all three factors outlined by the social exclusion unit, by acknowledging, giving direct plans and expecting to half the conception rate in the UK in a ten-year timescale.
With the knowledge that society is excluding teenage parents due to the stereotypical viewpoint that those who become pregnant are careless and uneducated, one of the steps the TPS took was to aim to halve the conception rate in the UK. This strategy would lower the amount of exclusion but would fail to change societal views that all teenage pregnancies are adverse. The plan did enforce specific strategies to educate teenagers on sexual health and provide support groups for teenagers going ahead in their pregnancies and strategically spend budgeted money in more affected areas. Teenagers becoming acknowledged for being well educated could potentially change societal views in the respect that if the nation were educated on how to protect against pregnancy, and adequately look after a child, society would trust that most of the teenage pregnancies are wanted.
The primary objective of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy were to prevent teenage pregnancies and thus prevent teenagers from being excluded. However, to target teenagers and support the idea that pregnancy is problematic alone would be agreeing that people of a young age should be categorised and wait to have children later on in life. The focus here is how the policy enforced strategies to support teenagers that decided to go ahead with their pregnancy. TPS did recognise the aspect of social exclusion however and did provide support to ensure maternity services were allocated to meet the needs of young parents, a lead professional produced holistic packages of support, help with reengaging teenage mothers into education and additional assistance with employment or training.These steps were put into action to prevent the poor outcomes that relate to adolescent parenthood including:
- Poor child health outcomes;
- Poor maternal emotional health and well-being; and
- Increased risk of teenage parents and their children living in poverty.
Additional initiatives were introduced in 2007 to provide further support for those teenagers who required guidance. The “Family Nurse Partnership programme” which is a nurse-led home visiting programme for vulnerable first-time mothers aged under 20 to provide professional help in caring for the new family and prevent the potential possibilities outlined above. Furlong and Cartmel (2006) said that articles frequently described early motherhood to ‘jump the queue’ concerning social housing and benefits.
“We are piloting many models of supported housing for teenage mothers, the aim of which is to inform future commissioning of subsidised housing for this group of young people” (Teenage Pregnancy Strategy: Beyond 2010). The TPS have made contributions towards the concerns from society about social housing to help in relieving the issue and therefore supports their aims in helping towards alleviating social exclusion for teenage parents.
Following on from how teenagers are portrayed in the media (wearing hooded jackets and being involved in crime) it is no shock that society would feel outraged by teenage pregnancy. In the last decades of the 20th century, successive British governments came to regard teenage pregnancy as significant public health and social problem. Teenage pregnancy is both a cause and a consequence of social exclusion. It has been stated that teenage parents are more likely to come from deprived or socially excluded backgrounds, which provides a high necessity to study a policy impact at a local level. The risk of becoming a teenage mother is almost ten times higher for a girl from the lowest social class compared to a girl from a professional context. Becoming an adolescent parent tends to exacerbate and amplify these inequalities.
With one hundred and forty-eight local areas being guided by the TPS and outlined their aims targeted on the most relevant to their community. Targeting and narrowing budgets to the priority areas meant that socially excluded communities were able to receive a high amount of support during the ten-year period.
Local level results and linking to research in deprived areas
Implementation of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy at local level has cost £25 million in the UK. The funds were distributed yearly between local authorities and was sectioned by the size of the population in the area and the degree of the challenge they faced, Hadley (2010). The strategy ensured that local levels with a higher percentage of teenage pregnancy would receive more of the budget as they would require the funds to pay for plans on how to lower percentages of pregnancies in the area. Amu and Appiah (2006) suggest that funding for family planning services in the UK is unreliable, and for a long-term strategy to be effective consistent funding would need to be provided. To support this statement, Amu and Appiah highlighted the failings within Sweden and Finland, who cut back on resources in their family planning services and saw a rise in pregnancies, abortions, smoking, drug abuse and the age of first sexual intercourse reducing.
The TPS made it possible for one hundred and forty-eight local authorities to be aided with funds to support teenagers in sexual health. Local authorities were then able to create their similar strategies to help tackle the issue of teenage pregnancy. Authorities were reviewed yearly over the ten-year period to ensure they were meeting the aims the TPS had outlined. With “similar strategies” being implemented over the whole of the UK, it provides a lack of personal care plans for teenagers.
The Family Education Trust (2002) believe that local areas using similar strategies to the original TPS lacks originality and does not create a client-centred approach. For example, the initial policy outlined that teenagers require the basic knowledge of contraception, which could be a misconception. If this assumption that teenagers are lacking knowledge brought forward is wrong, and teenagers need no further education on the use of contraception, this strategy would not be required in some local regions. Planning in a broad context that means that funding and resources would be going to waste.
Within the TPS it has been raised that poverty and social exclusion are strongly correlated to teenage pregnancy and therefore local authorities would benefit from working towards diminishing these factors, rather than focus on sex education. Bonnell et al. (2003) researched the link between social exclusion and teenage pregnancy while comparing it to sex education among teenagers aged thirteen and fourteen. Findings have shown that those of young age may become pregnant due to social exclusion, and dislikes of school cause teenagers to adopt positives attitudes towards parenthood. Dislike of school did not mean they had little knowledge of the sexual activity, however, but teenagers did see becoming a parent as a possible alternative to continuing education.
Local authorities worked with their local NHS, schools, youth services and other specialised voluntary organisations to achieve better outcomes for teenage parents. The TPS could have made improvements by providing more strategies that would help schools and health care workers work together to tackle the issues with education. The aspect of multi-agency working is crucial in professional bodies working towards the same outcome for teenage parents. Local authorities must work in partnership with professional agencies to be able to achieve success for health care outcomes.
The government launched the Sure Start Programme (SSP) in 2001 following on from the aims of the TPS to further support adolescent parents. Bell and Wilson (2002) have highlighted that the SSP was a significant implementation that formed one of the aims of the TPS. It intended to stop social exclusion that teenage mothers faced and provided better antenatal services for them. The SSP enforced in the local areas that social exclusion and adolescent pregnancy were ultimately high. Local level working during the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy was the most useful target to help in including teenage parents into society.
Paul Wilkinson et al. 2006 provides results from a study that aimed to quantify the change in the number of conceptions and abortions among women younger than eighteen years in England in relation to the Government’s national Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. They found that the number of teenage conceptions peaked in 1998, then declined after the implementation of the TPS. Under eighteen conception rates fell by an average of 2% per year between 1998 and 2003, below the rate needed to achieve the target of 50% reduction by 2010. The net change between 1994-98 and 1999-2003 was a fall in conceptions of 3.2% or 1.4 per 1000 women aged 15-17 years, a rise in abortions of 7.5%, and a fall in births of 10.6%. The change in the number of conceptions was greater in deprived and more rural areas, and in those with lower educational attainment. The change was greater in areas where services and access to them were poorer, but greater where more strategy related resources had been targeted.
The decline in under eighteen conception rates since 1998 and evidence that the declines have been greatest in areas receiving higher amounts of strategy related funding provided limited evidence of the effect of England’s national teenage pregnancy strategy. The full effect of local prevention will be clear only with longer observation, and substantial further progress is needed to remedy England’s historically poor international position in teenage conceptions.
Outcomes of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy
About one in 25 of births in England and Wales are too young women under 20. Most of their babies’ fathers are under 25. Since 1998, the under-18 conception rate has almost halved to the lowest level for over 40 years. However, young parents still tend to have more reduced access to maternity services and poorer outcomes than older parents.
Statistical outcomes can identify that TPS has been a success with a dramatic decline in conception rates over the space of the ten-year longitudinal study. These results have met the aims of preventing teenage pregnancies and hoping to halve the proportion of conceptions in the UK and has therefore accomplished the policy’s intent. With focus around social exclusion, although the strategy has been statistically successful, it is crucial to put statistics to one side and research the effect on support for the percentage of teenagers that decided to go full term in their pregnancy. With focussing on support services brought forward with the implementation of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, a vision of success with reducing social exclusion can become clearer.
During the life of the TPS, advice and support for children and young people, to help them stay safe and healthy and understand the importance of relationships, has improved significantly. Young people also have better access to contraception when they reach the point at which they begin to have sex. And these changes are welcomed by the majority of parents and professionals (Teenage Pregnancy Strategy: Beyond 2010).
The above quotation from the Department of Health has highlighted that there has been an improvement in support services for teenage parents. When evaluating outcomes for the support given it has been quoted by the DOH “While there have been improvements in the information, advice and support that we provide for young people on sex and relationships, there is still some way to go”. The DOH was correct in their conclusion as more than a third of young mothers left school before the statutory leaving age, and more than half had not returned to education, work or training after the birth of their child. The results from research have suggested the TPS has been a negative experience for the targeted group. The figures of low educational standards support the claims that adolescent teenagers see pregnancy as a way out of continuing their education. With sufficient research suggesting that teenagers have poor intentions with their behaviours due to experimentation, it could be suggested that the TPS has actually been very successful in providing support for teenage parents in the areas they are struggling with, but it is up to personal individuals to take the help available.
Research carried out by Rebecca S French et al. (2007) includes valuable information about the impact the TPS has had on young people’s knowledge of and access to contraceptive services. A random location sample of young people aged 13-21 years (n=8879) was interviewed in twelve waves over 2000-2004. Individual data were analysed to investigate factors associated with knowledge and use of contraceptive services and to observe trends over time. In all, 77% of young women and 65% of young men surveyed knew a service they could use to obtain information about sex. Improving young people’s knowledge and access to services are goals that have been set to meet the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy’s aims of reducing under eighteen conception rates. Little change in knowledge of contraceptive availability and services was observed, with the exception that over the four years more young men were aware that contraception is free of charge and condoms are freely available irrespective of age. A third of young women and just under half of young men remind unaware that they can obtain contraceptives without their parent’s knowledge. This suggests there is still a need for consistent messages about confidentiality of sexual health services to be conveyed to young people and for training of health care workers on confidentiality and young people.
Daguerre and Nativel (2006) have stated that strategy has made remarkable efforts to ensure teenage mothers are no longer excluded from school as the TPS reported their aims to keep adolescent parents in education. The TPU took legal action in stating that teenage pregnancy is not a ground for exclusion and pupils should be offered training even if it is an “offensive unit” such as attending a local college. Despite efforts being made, the behavioural choices made by teenagers put them at more of a risk for being excluded at school. It has been successful in implementing that pregnancy is not a ground for exclusion, but high demands of looking after a child, poor sleeping patterns and behavioural choices will also determine whether it is suitable for a poorly behaved teenager to stay in an educational unit.
In further supporting the argument that the TPS has tackled social exclusion towards teenage parents well, Sieczkarek (2009) says that since the publication of the TPS in 1999 housing policies in England for young parents has widely considered social exclusion through independent living and supported housing provisions. With including teenage parents in housing schemes and accommodating those appropriate to accommodation, the TPS seems to have had an enormous impact on diminishing social exclusion. However, many mothers expressed that they did not feel safe and family mentors lacked professionalism, and there was no continuity.
It is important to realise that many mothers are not feeling they are getting the support they need even after the TPS has been implemented. It does however need to be recognised that many teenage parents do feel safe, professionals have supported them in their choices and continuity is available if individuals seek further support from services.
Quantitative results have proven the TPS to be successful and labelled as a hard-won success by the media but focussing around statistical figures do not accurately represent the reasoning as to why the results turned out positively. The TPS could have only been evaluated quantitatively due to the impossibility of gathering enough qualitative research due to the large scale of the strategy. However, qualitative research brought forward by the Journal of Adolescence 2016has provided evidence as to why the strategy was a struggle for teenagers. This experience of targeting, labelling and stigma, particularly in formal systems of intervention, may have long-term repercussions rooted in a young person’s inability to overcome having been categorised, and having internalised, a negative label (Creaney, 2012).The policy has its limitations as it is further supporting the society that teenage parents should be categorised and continue to become excluded from society.
To improve on services delivered locally, the strategy needed to identify the factors that can contribute to high levels of teenage pregnancy. In doing so, client centeredness could have been achieved to help more teenage parents.
A factor related to teenage pregnancy in academic sourcing is ethnic background. The Department for Education and Skills (2006) state ethnicity is one of the risk factors leading to teenage pregnancy. They relate to statistics retrieved from the 2001 census and found the births to mothers under the age of nineteen was considerably higher in comparison to mothers of mixed white and black backgrounds.
It would be fair to say that high rates of pregnancy in adolescent mothers from different ethnic backgrounds are due to strict religious rules in their community. Religion can affect an individual’s life meaning that the rules they follow can change the behaviour of their decisions. Decisions concerned can also be related to having sex and the use of contraception. Advice from health care professionals about how strict confidentiality rules are in the health and social care sector would have significantly helped the issue with teenagers being afraid their parents would find out their personal information.
Abrams et al. (2007) explain that teenage pregnancies within the UK are excessively seen in ethnic minorities and believes this may be due to sexual health services not fully supporting different ethnicities. In some cultures, it is widely accepted to become married at a young age, and therefore sexual activity in teenagers is rather high. Aspinall and Hasham (2010) state that cultural differences towards the generation of a childbearing and family formations will be different amongst religion and ethnicity. Aspinall and Hasham highlight that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women do not see teenage pregnancy as a problem. Acceptance is a societal difference in comparison UK societal views as communities in the United Kingdom recognise adolescent pregnancy as a significant issue.
With statistical figures showing that the total conceptions in 1969 of those aged 13-19 being at a total of 129,900 it is questionable as to why the policy wasn’t introduced earlier than 1999. Perhaps this was an effect of social change and how opinions have changed drastically over the years.
As decades have passed, it seems marriage has become unfashionable. The dramatic change in women’s rights and expectations of gender roles have given women the opportunity to go out and work the same jobs as men for equal pay. With these social changes, there has been a significant decline in the percentage of people getting married in the UK. There has been a long-term rise in the proportion of conceptions (and births) occurring outside marriage. In 2013 designs outside of a marriage or civil partnership accounted for 57% of all plans in England and Wales.
Older generations tend to have the viewpoint that conception before marriage is unacceptable, and with an ageing population in the UK, it can become clear why most people socially exclude teenage parents. The fathers in these adolescent pregnancies do also have a social advantage due to stigmatisation and opinions that they will not support their children, and therefore they become a target of social exclusion.
The relationship between a young mother and a young father is often unstable, and the young mother’s own family may want to exclude him. It is crucial to realise that not all relationships between young parents are healthy. However, a good relationship between a young father and his teenage partner has a strong correlation with his involvement with his child in the early years, and with lower stress for the mother.
The exclusion within society has arisen through time and era, with stigmatisation coming from societal views. In previous periods, the age at which a woman began childbearing was not significant from a policy or any other perspective; the marital status of a mother-to-be was more important than her age. Marriage offered financial protection to mothers and their children at a time when the burden of unwed motherhood fell solely on local communities, so unmarried parenthood had a high stigmatisation.
Most academic resources on teenage pregnancy focus on adolescent mothers. Outlining the social exclusion teenage fathers experience is equally as important as the ignorance of society impacts the relationship outcome between fathers and their children. Barnados (2012) outline that too often policies marginalise fathers and mother centred services ignore them. Although teenage fathers do not have as much attention in the media, or judgement from society, they become excluded as society ignores their existence. It is stereotypical to assume that all teenage fathers will disappear from the situation they are in and not take responsibility for the pregnancy/their child. Aventin et al. found that 97.3 % of teenage males said they would blame themselves if their partner were to fall pregnant showing signs of responsibility and eagerness to avoid early parenthood. With the misconception of societal views, Duncan (2007) believes that because fathers are almost invisible to many professionals, this hinders them from achieving the parenting they desire to give.
Despite support from sources agreeing that services should start to recognise the importance of teenage fathers, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy does not contribute to including their input regarding adolescent pregnancy. Reeves (2008) indicates that figures show there are around 80,000 married and unmarried young fathers in the UK who would benefit from professional help. Chase et al. (2006) explain that young fathers often face various barriers reducing their interaction with their child. The most common barriers were; no longer being in a relationship with the mother, the mother having a new partner, being in prison, unemployment and drug misuse. The Social Exclusion Unit (2001) support Chase’s claims and believe that spending time in prison and participating in criminal activities can cause social exclusion.
With support groups in the country being female targeted, the exclusion for teenage fathers continues. Social support and parenting programmes are favoured currently as a means of promoting maternal and child mental, social and emotional health, yet we do not know much about what the goals of such programmes should be, to what extent they are effective and who should deliver them to teenagers. Sure Start programmes (while not specific to teenage parents) provide multi-faceted parenting and support interventions.
Implications of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy
For Wilkinson (2011) social inequality is divisive and socially corrosive, as well as unjust. Sometimes social policies contribute to these social divisions and this means that the TPS could have potentially created more exclusion for teens. The TPS was applied to England only; Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had to create and implement their strategies.
With adolescent pregnancies, all data provided categorises into the word “teenager”. More here please. Arguing against how society have wrongly excluded the group, Coleman (2011) says that early parenthood can be misleading to many, for example, an eighteen-year-old may plan to become pregnancy where a fourteen-year-old could become pregnancy due to failure to use contraception. To categorise the youngest age on the statistics table (thirteen years old) and the highest age of nineteen is unfair due to there being a significant difference between the two age groups. The Department for Children, Schools and Families suggests that the media tend to focus on mothers of very young ages within their publications which can be a deceptive strategy as over half of mothers under the age of twenty in the UK were aged nineteen, and only six percent were sixteen and under in 2005.
There has been criticism towards the implementation of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, arguing that the policy continues to exclude teenage parents socially and targets the social group. A paper compiled by Judi Kidger, Including Young Mothers: Limitations to New Labour’s Strategy for Supporting Teenage Parents, 24 Critical Soc. Poly 291 (2004),highlights the implications of the policy in depth. This paper argues that this conceptualisation of the route to social inclusion is problematic for young mothers in that it ignores the structural and contextual barriers to them gaining inclusion, it discounts full-time mothering as a valid option, and it neglects the social and moral elements of their exclusion, while in fact contributing to this. Kidger’s research has come from interviews with 14 young mothers.
The viewpoint reveals that the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy’s aimscontain a series of contested assumptions; that teenage parenthood is problematic and puts individuals at risk of social exclusion. That the best solution to this is to prevent its occurrence, but where that is unachievable, that the way for teenage mothers to avoid the risk of exclusion is to participate in education, training and ultimately paid work.
Feedback from volunteers contributing to research in this paper can help gain a better understanding of how the policy has had adverse effects on teenagers, ignoring plans to help alleviate exclusion. “When I started college, last year people said I was neglecting Lyle, putting him in a nursery when he was ten months old. When I left college people said that I’d given up and that I was scrounging off society and all this, and it’s like, what do you want me to do? (Deborah)”. The statement from Deborah stands out when understanding how strategies have had the opposite effect on the socially excluded group.
Deborah’s experience of being excluded both from returning to education and then leaving college after becoming excluded can demonstrate the pressure and stress young parents have exposure to through the judgements of others. It can also prove that aims in the TPS to help include teenage parents in society through continuing education can create further exclusion rather than help towards becoming accepted.
The TPS can be admired for aiming to tackle social exclusion in adolescent parents due to the apparent negativity society was aiming towards the age group. The strategy has helped teenagers in various ways and provided both support in sexual health education for the prevention of pregnancy and guidance for teenagers that wish to become parents.
With the support from the TPS being individually allocated to local areas, communities have been targeted upon certain requirements and funded with an excessive amount of money to be able to help teenagers.
The TPS had set aims that initially seemed unrealistic, as helping all teenage parents in England is an extreme task due to the high percentage of teenagers becoming pregnant each year. Despite expectations being high, the general overview of the campaign has been a success. The campaign has gone to extreme lengths to provide health and social care services for teenagers that would like to start a family, and those who would like to avoid pregnancy.
There are going to be limitations to the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy due to the size of the operation. This strategy has given those who want the help to receive it, but the strategy can only provide so much help, meaning teenagers must make an elective choice in whether to go out and look for the support available.
The TPS has achieved its initial aims as it has halved the rate of teenage conception rates in the UK in a ten year period. The policy has also had an impact on the support services provided by the National Health Service, meaning that there is theoretically less social exclusion than in recent years as teenagers are feeling included with the services being available to them specifically.
The strategy can be criticised as members of society do still feel that teenagers should not be having children. With extreme lifestyles expected from the age group, it could be seen as a positive way of preventing potential child abuse and promoting healthy pregnancies.
When reflecting back on the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, it has been a success in implementing a range of education for teenage parents. In terms of improvements, the strategy would have benefitted from provided appropriate health promotion for teenagers. With campaigning on the media about teenage pregnancy, teenagers would have been more aware of support services available and more likely to know that support is out there waiting for them.
Improvements: Health promotion services to promote services available, use social media as a way to target teenagers.
Talking about how social change has come about and that it is embarrassing now to be asked if you have children and the majority of people are having their children at 25. More mature mothers as well, people are still having children at 40.
Annik Sohraindo, 2016. Being Targeted: Young women’s experience of being identified for teenage pregnancy prevention programme, Journal of Adolescence: Elsevier.
Aspinall P. Hashem, 2010. Are our data on teenage pregnancy across ethnic groups in England fit for purpose of policy formation, implementation and monitoring? Critical Public Health, 20 (1), p47-70.
Evans, J., Slowley, M., Barnados, (2010) Not the end of the story: Supporting teenage mothers into education, Barnados: Essex.
French, K. Ed (2009) Sexual Health, Blackwell Publishing Ltd: West Sussex.
Full Fact, 2013. How many young people are claiming housing benefit? [online]. Full Fact: London. Available at: https://fullfact.org/economy/how-many-young-single-parents-are-claiming-housing-benefit/. [Accessed on: 06.01.18].
FPA, 2010. Teenage Pregnancy Factsheet [online]. FPA: London. Available at: https://www.fpa.org.uk/factsheets/teenage-pregnancy. [Accessed on 10.11.17].
Klor, E. Lapin, S. (2011) Serving teen parents: From literacy to life skills, Libraries Unlimited: California.
Office for National Statistics, 2015. Conception rate in England and Wales: 2013 [online]. Office for National Statistics. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/conceptionandfertilityrates/bulletins/conceptionstatistics/2015-02-24. [Accessed on 13.01.18].
Rachael Parker, 2005. Final Report [online]. London: BMRB International. Available at: http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/24203/1/TPSE.pdf. [Accessed on: 25.01.18].
The National Academies Press, 2001. The National Academies of science, engineering and medicine: Elena O. Nightingale and Baruch Fischhoff. Available at: https://www.nap.edu/read/10209/chapter/2. [Accessed on 10.11.17].
PMC, 2016.Implementing the United Kingdom’s ten-year teenage pregnancy strategy for England (1999-2010): How was this done and what did it achieve? [Online]. Alison Hadley. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5120422/. [Accessed on 13.11.17].
Public Health England, 2015. Getting maternity services right for pregnant teenagers and young fathers [online]. PHE Publications: Department of Health. Available at: https://www.rcm.org.uk/sites/default/files/Getting%20maternity%20services%20right%20for%20pregnant%20teenagers%20and%20young%20fathers%20pdf.pdf[Accessed on: 06.01.18].
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