The so-called “Pregnancy Pact” at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts, where 17 teenagers delighted in their positive pregnancy tests (high fives all around!), has inspired much commotion in the media lately. There is much scrutiny, debate, analysis, and blame. What you don’t hear much of, though, are two sides to the story.
Sharon Leach of the Jamaica Observer presents one interesting perspective, which is in line with the general reaction of the public to this event. She reminisces on her own teenage summers of “inchoate adolescent angst” and affirms that it was only fear that kept her and her friends (back in 1982) from becoming pregnant. Fear of her parent’s reaction, fear because she didn’t have the resources to care for a baby, fear of the repercussions that having a baby would make on her future.
“Fear, however, is what is conspicuously absent from these teen girls at Gloucester High,” states Ms. Leach. “Forget about appealing to teenagers’ paranoia in order to reduce the figures, though. I don’t know that teenagers today have that kind of moral inner compass that keeps them terrified of taking off their clothes in front of each other.”
She basically lays the blame on today’s society, where teenagers are not taught self-control and are unable to reign themselves in during their quest for sexual discovery. We live in a culture of “over-the-top consumerist excesses, lack of boundaries and general bad examples [that] we set for our children… The best a parent can hope for is for their teenagers to make responsible decisions despite the raging hormones.”
Ms. Leach reiterates the common public response, which seems to be shock and a tendency to blame not only the girls themselves, but anyone else who could have—or should have—but didn’t—rein them in.
I read with interest an article with a completely different viewpoint. Christopher Caldwell of the Financial Veiwpoint claims that the Gloucester pregnancies are “some kind of a rebellion.” He quotes the Gloucester Daily Times, who calls the idea of 15- and 16-year-old girls wanting to become pregnant “profoundly shocking,” and says that “others being ‘disappointed’, not relieved, when learning their pregnancy tests proved negative – is a notion that seems absolutely contrary to most of our psyches.”
It may be contrary to our modern ideology, Mr. Caldwell argue, but it is the most natural of things to our human psyches. “Having babies at 16 is perfectly in line with our psyches, as a look at other cultures and our own history shows.”
The Gloucester pregnancies are not about information that these girls lacked, he goes on to say. Their level of sex-education was probably adequate. Their parents may have been sufficiently open and honest with them. They knew what they were doing and it was a conscious choice. “It is a fool’s errand to try to convince a girl that bearing a child is “sad” (a word used with appalling frequency in press accounts) or to argue that last year’s hit movie Juno leads girls astray by glamorising pregnancy… Having a baby is not sad.“ In Mr. Caldwell’s opinion, these girls are rebelling against the notion that teen pregnancies are bad—an argument that they just “don’t buy.”
According to this notion, the idea that teenage motherhood is something to be avoided comes from “Baby-boom feminists” who replaced one set of priorities with another. “Their careerism prevented teen motherhood as reliably as did their mothers’ moralism… They chose careers over – or on top of – child-rearing and reaped substantial rewards. Whether those rewards are worth the risks of never having a child might be judged differently by the next generation.” He argues that in a lower-class society, where the likelihood that a woman will raise her children alone is high, a woman might as well bear children young.
“As it gets harder to climb out of the class one was born in, the opportunity cost of being a young mother falls… might not the teen years be a prudent time to become a single mother, while the financial and day-care resources of one’s own parents are still available?”
In a radical change from the norm, Mr. Caldwell doesn’t just defend the young women against blame. He almost praises them for their insight: “If the old ‘pregnancy pact’ that went by the name of marriage is no longer so readily available, they are not fools to look for a substitute.”
I don’t think I quite agree with him. I’m not sure I quite agree with Ms. Leach’s observations either. I kind of liked this post on the subject, although again there are elements that I agree with some that I don’t.
She writes: “…my reaction to the news story in Time was one of sympathy. If adults who have years of imagining themselves as parents have difficulty with the transition, I am not sure how these girls will fare when they face their own squalling infant. In turn, my sympathy also goes out to the children born to these girls…. I love my children and I am so grateful for the chance to parent. I would sign up to do this job again and again. But I’m also glad that I entered parenthood for the right reasons and my heart goes out to anyone who enters parenthood before they are truly ready.”
That point I agree with one hundred percent!
What do you think?