One of the most frequently discussed and problematic issues surrounding the African American family is the issue of teen childbearing. In the 1960’s, teen mothers were more likely to be at least 17 years old, now we see a rise in the number of births to girls aged 14-16. Teen pregnancy has become problematized first with the implementation of mandatory schooling until age 18 and then with the overall rise in the age of first marriage, which is now around 24 years old for women. The low marriage rate among African American women results in a situation in which, more often than not, babies born to African American women are non-martial births. African Americans are more than twice as likely to become pregnant as teenagers than are whites.
There are several negative outcomes associated with teen pregnancy and childbearing that affect the mother and the baby. Some of these risks are teenagers are more likely to give birth to low weight babies. Low birth is associated with physical and developmental problems. The babies usually have a longer hospital stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. As they get older they may need to be put in special classrooms or requiring educational services that are expensive. Low birth rate is also associated with infant mortality. Teen pregnancy poses a risk to the life of the baby as well as increasing the risk of long-term costly problems. Abortion is not often an option for African American teens. Some reasons for this are choice, religious beliefs and access. Abortions cost a lot of money and are not covered by Medicaid in the first trimester. Majority of the African American population lives in the South where access to abortion is severely limited. There is only one abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi.
Teen pregnancy can also lead to lack of education and a life living in poverty. Teen pregnancy is strongly associated with poverty. Teenage parents are disproportionately concentrated in poor, often racially segregated communities characterized by inferior housing, high crime, poor schools, and limited health services. Girls who give birth in their teen years are less likely to finish high school. It is significantly less likely for them to get their postsecondary education. A result of this is poverty. It is hard for teen mothers to secure employment that pays a living wage. They are more likely to rely on welfare. The likelihood of the mother getting out of poverty as she ages is highly unlikely. “More than 80 percent of young teen mothers received welfare during the 10 years following the birth of their first child, 44 percent of them for more than 5 years” (African American Families).
Tammy was a senior at large state institution in 1996. She was raising two children and going to school. Her dream was to get a good job and make a better life for her son and daughter. Tammy was on welfare. She lived in section 8 housing and received a child care subsidy so her children could stay in high quality daycare while she went to school. In November of 1996 she was informed of the welfare changes that basically said she had to drop out of school and keep her welfare or enroll in a two-year program at a technical college if she wanted to continue with her education. I already know the welfare system is a sham. Tammy’s story proves it to me even more. The system is meant to trap people in especially minorities.
Teen mothers are more likely to engage in child abuse. This is most likely related to a variety of factors, including the mother’s education; her access to financial and stress-reducing resources (parenting classes, baby-sitting relief); her lack of training for parenting; and her own likelihood of having grown up in an abusive relationship. Child abuse is one of the many reasons why children of teen mothers end up in jail. Also, children born to teen mothers are almost three times as likely to be behind bars at some point in their adolescence or early 20s as are the children of mothers who delayed childbearing. The factors that play into why the probability of incarceration for children born to teen mothers is so high is because they are raised in poverty. They may spend time in an unstable environment moving from home to home or even end up in foster care. These terrible outcomes could be changed if there was a community with norms that encouraged teen childbearing and that had the presence of social support for teen mothers, the result would be a greater number of teens bearing and raising their children. Teenage mothers construct their motherhood by separating marriage and childbearing, accelerated family time tables, compressed generations, and intergenerational caregiving patterns.
Non-marital childbearing is not terribly problematic. The distinction that should be made about non-martial births is the presence or absence of a father figure. 68% of African American babies are born to unmarried mothers who often have little to no contact with the child’s father. There are a variety of reasons why fathers choose not to be involved in the lives of their children, there are at least three structural causes that limit the involvement of African American men: homicide, incarceration, and unemployment. All three of these situations which stands at about 15% for African American men seriously impede the ability of African American men to provide financially for their children.
Liquor houses are unregulated social clubs. They exist in an apartment in the projects. In these houses a man allows a woman and her children (sometimes) to live rent free in exchange for her and (her children) running the liquor house. This arrangement is usually the woman having sex with the man whenever the man wants. These liquor houses are open 24 hours a day. Child and teen prostitution and other illegal activities were a major part of the scene. The police looked the other way because they were paid off. The teens living there sometimes did not have time to go to school because they had to work. A lot of the teens have sex in exchange for food or drugs. Half of the African American women the authors interviewed had experienced sexual experiences consensual or not by the age of 16.