We see plenty of anecdotal evidence that teen pregnancy has an adverse impact on the educational outcomes of teen mothers, yet does research verify many of our notions. Health Educators and Social Workers gather observational data as we speak to our clients and when we pose the question of why our teen moms are not doing well in school or have dropped out of school all together, we receive responses such as:
“I don’t have time to study because my baby keeps me up.”
“Being a mom is more important than going to school.”
“I can’t work, go to school, and raise a baby at the same time.”
Any woman who has raised a child can attest to the fact that the rearing of a child takes a considerable amount of work but does the fact that being a mom as a teen really hinder educational attainment? According to the National Conference of State Legislators, Thirty percent of all teenage girls who drop out of school cite pregnancy and parenthood as key reasons. Rates among Hispanic (36 percent) and African American (38 percent) girls are higher. Educational achievement affects the lifetime income of teen mothers: two-thirds of families started by teens are poor, and nearly one in four will depend on welfare within three years of a child’s birth. It evident that the majority of teen mothers face not only the hurdle of raising a child while pursuing their education but all while doing so in most cases with financial burdens.
Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between poverty and educational attainment and those that live in poverty are less likely to graduate or obtain post-secondary education. Furthermore research states:
– Only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school. Fewer than 2 percent finish college by age 30.
– Young women who give birth while attending a community college are 65 percent less likely to complete their degree than women who do not have children during that time.
– Children of teen mothers perform worse on many measures of school readiness, are 50 percent more likely to repeat a grade, and are more likely than children born to older mothers to drop out of high school.
Teen pregnancy and dropout rates could be more likely attributed to poverty and other adverse social factors especially considering the fact that more affluent teens have greater access to health care, housing, employment, and social supports. While these other social factors may play a greater role in the academic achievement of teen mothers, it is still evident that health educators, school personnel, and policy makers must be aware of the barriers that teen pregnancy has on educational outcomes. One way to mitigate the aforementioned barrier is through the implementation of comprehensive sex education programs, specifically those that target high risk populations and teens that are currently pregnant or parenting.
According to an article published in the Journal of School Health, school-based programs have the potential to help teens acquire the knowledge and skills needed to postpone sex, practice safer sex, avoid unintended pregnancy, and, if pregnant, to complete high school and pursue postsecondary education. A secondary beneﬁt of comprehensive sex education is that it will serve to protect youth from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, which also disproportionately affect urban minority youth. It is evident that there is a correlation between teen pregnancy and poor educational outcomes and it is vital to develop comprehensive measures to promote academic achievement among teen mothers, especially minority teens living in poverty.
National Institute of State Legislators http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/teen-pregnancy-affects-graduation-rates-postcard.aspx
Basch, C. Teen Pregnancy and the Achievement Gap Among Urban Minority Youth, 2011. Journal of School Health.