Previous research with adolescents
Previous research about meaning of parenthood amongst non-adults has focused almost exclusively on prevention of teenage pregnancy. Much has focused on females, particularly those who have experienced pregnancy.
In one study, Zabin, Astone and Emerson examined ‘wantedness’ (attitudes towards having a baby) amongst 313 inner city Black women under 17 years who presented for pregnancy tests at a US clinic. The questionnaire survey found that 8.5 per cent of them wanted to be pregnant. However, since participants already suspected they were pregnant, their attitudes may have been influenced by impending pregnancy test results. In other American studies, Stevens-Simon et al. found that 17.5 per cent of 200 pregnant 13–18-year-olds had wanted to become pregnant and Forrest and Singh’s study revealed that 20 per cent of the pregnant 15–19-year-olds surveyed had intended to become pregnant. Rodriquez and Gore surveyed 341 teenage mothers and found that 31 per cent had intentionally become pregnant.
A study examining prevention of teenage pregnancy in the US provides a useful meta-analysis of previous research examining why some teenagers are reluctant to actively prevent pregnancy. For example, some thought a pregnancy might improve (or at least not worsen) their relations with family, peers or sexual partners; might help them cope with depression and loneliness; might dispel their concerns about infertility; or might signal their passage into adulthood. While still concentrating on pregnant or previously pregnant girls, qualitative research has begun to acknowledge that some adolescents view pregnancy and childbearing positively and may desire children.
It is important to reiterate that the findings of these studies are based on responses from pregnant (or previously pregnant) adolescents and may not therefore reflect the attitudes of never-pregnant adolescents since the unwillingness to acknowledge ‘mistakes’ may influence participants’ responses.
In a recent English study, Bradshaw, Finch and Miles found that nearly 75 per cent of variation between geographical areas in the teenage conception rate and approximately 50 per cent of variation in the abortion rate could be explained by models of deprivation measured by indicators such as poor education, housing and health, low income and child poverty. Variations in services such as sex education Medicine for weightloss and/or the accessibility of contraceptive advice were thought to provide additional explanations.