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Teenage Pregnancy


Many American families display forms of dysfunctionality.
In one family the father may be a workaholic and the mother
an alcoholic. In another, the father maybe an alcoholic and
the mother an enabling codependent who never touches a
drop. Regardless of the specific affliction, children being
raised within dysfunctional families are deprived of what
is needed to become happy, healthy, and well-adjusted
adults. One of the most pervasive effects of this
deprivation is teenage pregnancy. In the case of a family
where one parent, the father, is an alcoholic, the affected
parent turns to alcohol as a remedy for some personal
shortcoming. This parent has little to offer a young girl
seeking the approval and admiration of her father. More
often than not, the child is viewed as a nuisance by the
parent, and the resultant irritation is hard to disguise.
The child learns to either accept the irritation as the
price for that parents affection, or rejects the cost and
seeks the attention of the other parent. The other parent,
if healthy, is carrying the weight of the alcoholic
partner's disease and the tasks required to make a house a
home. At best she has her hands full; at worst she is as
mentally incapacitated as the father. Consequently, the
young girl grows up under-nurtured, under-valued and
lonely. Similar to craving carrots when the body needs
vitamin A, the young woman's mind will seek the means to
fulfill the void left by the dysfunctional parent.!
When the deprived young woman reaches puberty, she finds a
seemingly endless well of
attention, often mistaken as affection, in the young boys
she has grown up with.
Unbeknownst to her, the young men, dealing with the
onslaught of pubescent hormones, are
trying to fulfill a completely different set of needs. And
thus, the groundwork has
been set for a teenage pregnancy. The least complex
enticement for an adolescent female to become pregnant is
the fantasy that the expected child will fulfill her need
for love and affection. As seen on television, a baby can
be as cute as a stuffed animal and as loyal to its mother
as a Labrador retriever. What is not seen is that the baby
is a life-long responsibility--one that a teenage mother
has not expected and is completely unprepared to accept.
Also the pregnancy itself can serve as a vehicle to receive
the attention that was lacking in her family of origin. I
remember talking to a pregnant woman in line at the grocery
store. When I asked how long she had been pregnant, she
replied six months and went on to state that her baby kicks
almost continually. In disbelief as asked if I could feel
the baby kick; she answered yes, and after 30 seconds the
baby did kick. Later, in the parking lot, it occurred to me
that I had handled the stomach of a complete stranger
solely because she was pregnan! t. Another motivating
factor is the hope that with the new child she will gain
some of the praise and respect that she was denied
throughout her childhood. The act of childbirth itself is a
great accomplishment--an accomplishment which under normal
circumstances should be honored. Many couples try for years
to produce children without success. Some pregnancies
require monumental efforts such artificial insemination or
invitro-fertilization. In the worst cases couples are
forced to adopt. Consequently, childbirth could be
construed as an empowering experience by the adolescent,
and that can be significant in the life of a child who has
had little power. The childbirth may also be perceived by
the adolescent as a passage into adulthood. In this, as in
many of the teenage mother's expectations, she is quite
often disappointed. It is easy to see that the outcome
desired by a pregnant teenager take several forms, but the
underlying motivation is to receive the love and admiration
the parents would not, or could not provide. The most
devastating aspect of a teenage pregnancy is that little
thought is given to the responsibilities required of the
mother to support her new child. Consequently the
likelihood is high that the next generation will not
receive what it needs to become happy and healthy



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