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Britain and Teenage Mums

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 Britain and Teenage Mums

A touching report by Rob Broomby (12 01 09) of the BBC investigating the enormous problem of teenage pregnancy in the UK.

It has been estimated that there are over 40,000 pregnancies to teenage girls under 18 per annum. Notwithstanding Britain has the worst record for teenage pregnancies in the whole of Europe.

What is cause for concern is the fact that there are so many mothers on the Gleadless Valley Estate in Sheffield. So much so it is known as “Push Chair Alley”.

The teenage girls featured in this report have all had their identities hidden, simply because they are still children themselves.

For Jackie, she suggests that the high level of teenage pregnancy is because, and she quotes “If people’s lives are rubbish they just think a baby is going to make it better”. This is a very sad prospect for one so young. What is more distressing is that Jackie expresses her views over a mouthful of sweets, re-inforcing the concept of he youth.

The youngsters are taking part in a sexual health project within the estate (with very high rates of teenage pregnancy). Significantly this is also a very poor estate, thus there will be other factors in play.

According to another young girl, who attempts to explain why this situation exists, says, “If their Mums and Dads don’t care about them they think ‘I won’t be lonely anymore if I have a baby”. This young girl is also powering her way through a bag of toffees. In addition she states “They feel more grown up if they are responsible over summat (something), if they have to take care of something (a child) instead of being taken care of.”

What does appear to be clear is that these youngsters experience loneliness in a fundamental way, thus having a baby takes that feeling away and offers an inducement.

Julie Norburn is a trained nurse in charge of the lessons, she has developed a good rapport with the girls and thus is able to draw out information from them.

Norburn believes that many of the pregnancies are down to both drugs and alcohol.

She argues, “They are in situations where they are having sex and they are not in control”. Furthermore, risky behavioural patterns are adopted and peer pressure is key - Norburn says of the youngsters that they “just want to have some love off someone”.

A lot of the girls Julie sees got pregnant with their first sexual experience and many say they were coerced into a situation they did not really want.

As indicated earlier, other factors have a part to play. It has been suggested in another BBC report (04 11 08) that there is a link between TV shows with a high sexual content, young girls are twice as likely to become pregnant according to a study.

Hitherto, with reference to boys watching similar programmes, were also more likely to get a girl pregnant.

Experts have urged parents to talk to their children around the issues of sex. The problem here however are that some parents from backgrounds on estates find talking to their children very difficult. Therefore it would be pertinent to suggest a multi-agency approach.

Moving on and addressing other indicators that may lead to early pregnancy. It has often been argued that the benefit culture will actively encourage pregnancy amongst teenagers. In response Julie Nordan views the matter on a sceptical platform and says she sees no evidence of that among the young women with whom she works. In contrast however some of the girls recognise that this may be a motivating force and one states, “My brother got his girl friend pregnant at 16 and they got a house.”

In addition others have argued that “They get more money because of the child benefits and stuff like that,” says a third - but her statement is immediately amended by her friend who adds: “But all the money goes to the baby anyway.”

The local Community Forum is run by Steve Rundell, he is recognised as a beacon for the works he does within the community under very difficult circumstances.

From his own perspective he says that there is a ’sense of desperation’ in terms of the sexual attitudes of the youngsters. He adds, “I know there are examples of young teenagers becoming pregnant in order to get on the housing ladder.”

The reality of these teenage pregnancies for these youngsters is probably fear. One young 17 year old male who got his younger girlfriend pregnant was more terrified of telling his parents. He is also aware that he would like to do the right thing.

He holds down a job, from his point of view he says, “If you can’t take responsibility there is no point.”

As indicated by Broomby, In the end teenage pregnancy is not about statistics but the real lives of young and vulnerable people.

In effect they are child parents, ill equipped to deal with the challenges of their own lives - let alone the demands of raising another generation.

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