Essay on Teenage Pregnancy in South Africa

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Teenagers are important to focus on since they are at a stage of growth marked by physical, psychological, and emotional changes, as well as social changes (Erikson, 1963). Adolescence is marked by abstract, conceptual, and future-oriented thinking positions (Piaget, 1958). Erik Erikson claims in his developmental theory that adolescence is the most important stage of life from childhood to maturity and that a teenager's goal is to build their own identity. Teenage parents, on the other hand, may lack the necessary cognitive abilities. and the psychosocial skills necessary for parenting. Moreover, teenage parents might not get the opportunity to experiment with various roles which will affect their identity development. Jewkes, Morrell, and Christofides, (2009, p. 678) reflected on the teen years as a key time for exploring and establishing one's gender identity, they noted that for boys 'in a context of poverty and limited alternatives, securing and maintaining sexual relationships are critical to self-evaluations of masculine success as well as peer group positioning. Gendered norms shape the way adolescents view sexuality and play an important role in their use and access to information and services, as well as their sexual behavior and risk-taking attitudes (World Health Organization, 2011). Gendered norms, according to Mkhwanazi (2010), promote guys to be sexually active while girls are supposed to be sexually innocent. Despite the fact that both males and females are involved in pregnancy, girls are persuaded that they must abstain and are blamed should they fall pregnant.

The status of teenage pregnancy in South Africa

Teenage pregnancy is a complicated issue with numerous causes for concern, it is both a public health and socioeconomic challenge for society (Osaikhuwuomwan & Osemwenkha, 2013). Pregnancy among teenagers is a worldwide problem in terms of reproductive health promotion problem that affect teenager, family, and communities in both developed and developing countries, if a child between the ages of ten and nineteen, unmarried and still at school, become pregnant (Mchunu et al. 2012:428). Adolescent pregnancy is a complex issue with many reasons for concern; it is an important public health problem as well as a socioeconomic challenge to society (Osaikhuwuomwan & Osemwenkha, 2013). Teenage pregnancy is a global reproductive health promotion problem that affects teenagers, families, and communities, both in developed and developing countries, as children aged 10 to 19 years, unmarried and still at school, become pregnant (Mchunu et al. 2012:428). Preventing teen pregnancy is crucial because it can lead to complications linked with a number of obstetric, social, educational, and health-related issues (Masemola-Yende & Mataboge, 2015). According to Masondo (2013), Statistics derived from the 2013 Household Survey in South Africa indicated that there were 99,041 pregnant school girls in 2013, which showed an increase of 17,363 over the previous year. Masondo (2013) noted an increase from the 81,000 pupils who fell pregnant in 2012 and 68,000 in 2011. According to the General household survey conducted by Statistics South Africa (2015), the prevalence of teenage pregnancy in 2015 increased with age, rising from 0, 6% for females aged 14 years, to 9, 7% for females aged 19 years.

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Factors that contribute to teenage pregnancy

Individual factors

Arain, Haque, Johal, Mathur, Nel, Rais & Sharma (2013) argue that teenagers are limited by their cognitive development in making important decisions. Berk (2010) argues that 'although adolescents can consider many possibilities when faced with a problem, they often fail to apply this reasoning to everyday situations'. This suggests that due to their skills of limited formal reasoning, some teenagers make dangerous decisions or behave in ways that put their lives in danger such as choosing to have unprotected sex. 'Teenage pregnancy has been associated with frequent sex without reliable contraception, sexual coercion, poor sexual communication between partners, the perception that most of your friends have been pregnant or that one has to prove one's fertility and promiscuity' (Vundule, Maforah, Jewkes & Jordaan, 2001). According to Ekstrand, Larsson, Von Essen & Tyden (2005) liberal attitudes `towards casual sex, poor school-based sexual education, fear of hormonal contraceptives, and alcohol consumption, have also been associated. In a study conducted by Willan (2013) whose goal was to explore knowledge, access to, and use of, contraceptives they found that many teenagers have a basic knowledge about contraceptives and protection from STIs and HIV unplanned pregnancies, However, many reported insufficient contraceptive knowledge and not using contraceptives correctly and consistently, as well as limited reproductive knowledge about fertility and conception (Willan, 2013). Buga, Amoko & Ncayiyana (1996) note that the reasons for not using contraception also include ignorance, fear of parents finding out, shyness in going to the clinic, and disapproval from the boyfriend.

Societal factors

Teenage pregnancy in South Africa is driven by many factors including gender inequalities; gendered expectations of how teenage boys and girls should act; sexual taboos (for girls) and sexual permissiveness (for boys); poverty; poor access to contraceptives and termination of pregnancies; inaccurate and inconsistent contraceptive use; judgmental attitudes of many health care workers; high levels of gender-based violence; and poor sex education (Jewkes, Morrell and Christofides, 2009). Children born to teenage mothers are themselves more susceptible to falling pregnant as teenagers (Kanku & Mash, 2010). Parents of teenage mothers and teenage fathers are often considered by their teenagers to have 'permissive attitudes' regarding premarital sex and pregnancy. However, parents with permissive attitudes about sex or premarital sex, or those that have negative attitudes about contraception have teenagers who are more likely to have unsafe sex and become pregnant (Dittus & Jaccard, 2000, p. 26). Several studies point out that the financial dependence of adolescent girls on their male partners, most of whom are older than them puts them at risk of unplanned pregnancies as they depend on these 'financially powerful' men for financial support (Clarke, 2005; Dickson, 2005; Males, 1993; Mwite, Nkambule, Wildschutt & Richards, 2005). Power imbalances in sexual relationships between men and women make the men hold sexual decision-making power and little room to negotiate contraceptive use with partners (Panday, Makiwane, Ranchod & Letsoalo, 2009). However, respectability among men is still strongly tied to their right to make decisions about when, where, and how happens, to be highly sexually active and have multiple partners (Panday, Makiwane, Ranchod & Letsoalo, 2009).

Structural factors

According to Flanagan, Lince, Durao de Menezes, and Mdlopane (2013, p. 17) poverty is both a contributor and a consequence of early pregnancy because some are involved sexually with older men in relationships where gifts such as money, clothes, and other goods are exchanged for sexual favors. Mkhwanazi (2010) notes that poverty decreases a girl's ability to negotiate condom use, can keep her in abusive relationships, and creates a further layer of unequal power. According to (Panday et al., 2009, p. 87) family planning services are provided to young people with the purpose of making available reproductive health services, providing contraception including condoms, and improving their knowledge and skills to use them. However Wood & Jewkes (2006) notes that at the clinic teenagers are offered little choice of contraceptive method and given poor explanations of the side effects and mechanism of action, which contributes to a low uptake of contraception, despite it being free. According to Kanku & Mash (2010), health workers have been accused of turning away young teenagers from family planning clinics and accusing them of being too young for sex. According to Reynolds et al., (2004), young people often do not use contraceptives or use them inconsistently due to contraceptive service providers' unfriendly attitudes toward them and the lack of assurance for confidentiality. Sexual health education in the form of life skills has been introduced as a compulsory part of the school curriculum, but the way in which it is implemented is not successful (Kanku & Mash, 2010). Most educators are not well equipped on how to implement it. Eventually, teenagers do not get the necessary information about sex education (Panday et al (2009, p. 53).

The status of teenage fathers in South Africa

Available international research suggests that the profile of young fathers is no different from young women - they tend to come from low-income homes, have poor school performance, and low educational attainment, and seldom have the financial resources to support the child and the mother. In South Africa, the teenage years are characterized by generally socially sanctioned freedom and sexual experimentation for both genders, particularly for young men (Wood & Jewkes, 1998). According to Jacob and Marais (2013) 'in a context of poverty and limited alternatives, young fathers' sense of responsibility is mostly tied to their sense of masculinity, which is defined and achieved as the following: sexual performance and the belief that men should be seen as sexually vigorous; securing and maintaining sexual relationships are critical to self-evaluations of success and peer group positioning'. Teenage fathers are often overlooked in attempts to address the challenge of teenage pregnancy and most research studies have focused on the teenage mother and baby who need support and help but neglect to think about the impact of fatherhood on teenage males (Swanson, 2013). Teenage fathers are affected by parenthood, they need help, advice, and encouragement to take responsibility both for the babies they have fathered and their own education and future (Njambatwa, 2013. Adolescent fatherhood has been associated with low economic backgrounds; lower educational attainment; and fewer employment opportunities than their childless peers (Jacobs & Marais, 2013). Young men involved in adolescent pregnancies were more psychologically distressed than those who did not have a pregnant girlfriend in the adolescent stage (Buchanan & Robbins, 2005). This is because teenage fathers are developmentally immature and thus are emotionally and cognitively unprepared to cope with the responsibility of parenting (Hudson & Ineichen, 1991). Despite this majority of teenage fathers felt obliged to meet certain responsibilities for the baby and mother (Barret & Robinson, 1982). Jacobs and Marais (2013) argued that some of the reasons for having children at a young age range from alcohol use, desire to have sex without a condom, ignorance about condoms, contraceptives, and general reproductive biology, beliefs that condom use is associated with mistrust and infidelity promiscuity, lack of supervision and adult involvement in their lives, sense of invulnerability and wanting and actively seeking an opportunity to father a child (legacy fear of premature death, desire for fatherhood, secure relationship with teen mother, peer pressure, pride and evidence of masculinity) According to Swartz, Bhana, Richter and Versfeld (2013) 'barriers to young fathers' involvement with their children include financial, cultural and relational'. Financial support often overshadows other aspects of fatherhood, such as contact time, physical care, and emotional support. This is a challenge for teenage fathers in contexts of poverty as they tend to have limited access to finances due to their continuing education and absence of income. Culturally young, black African men are required to make damage payments to the family of the mother of his child in order to be allowed to be involved in their children's lives. This is a challenge for teenage fathers as they do not have the money to make damage payments. A poor relationship with the child's mother can also reduce a teenage father's ability and desire to play a fathering role. In light of the above South Africa has in its endeavour to reduce the prevalence of teenage pregnancy formulated the following legislation.

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