The rates of teenage pregnancy experienced their lowest numbers between 1991 and 2005, with the annual statistics declining annually through this period. The last 5 years have seen a reversal of this trend however, with an increase of nearly 5 percent in total between 2006 and 2009. This number is set rise still further through 2011, leaving more and more teenagers aged between 15 and 19 facing the realities of parenting.
This statistic is reflective of a decline in general behavioural trends amongst teenagers, both in the US and globally. Whether it is youngsters indulging in unprotected sex or experimenting with alcohol and drugs, there is a common theme of unruly and disruptive conduct creating an entire generation of vulnerable young adults. Though there are many reasons advanced for this decline in social standards, a significant proportion of the responsibility must sit with the parents.
Awareness and Parental Responsibility
Throughout the 14 years of declining teenage pregnancy rates, there were nationwide campaigns conducted to increase awareness for parents and teenagers alike. These campaigns have become less well directed and intense in the last 5 years, and it would be all too easy to presume that this alone is the single most significant factor in climbing teen pregnancy rates. However, there is a worrying lack of parental responsibility displayed across the US, with more emphasis placed instead on governments and teaching establishments to modify teenager’s attitudes and behaviour.
This pressure is oblivious to the fact that all of a child’s learned behaviour is based upon what they see from their parents on a daily basis. As children are aware and can interpret behaviour and actions from an early age, they are usually well shaped and rounded before they even experience a sex education class at high school. This also highlights a problem with government conceived campaigns, as they are aimed at children who already have a concept of behavioural trends and what is acceptable conduct. In reality, any campaigns need to be directed towards parents in order that they can develop and educate their children through their formative years.
Honesty and Communication
For parents who do take the responsibility to educate their children on sexual matters and other issues like drugs and alcohol, one of the key elements required for this tuition is honesty. By teaching their children through detailed and honest fact, parents can not only nurture young minds but also instil a long lasting and enduring trust in their relationship. Of course, this means providing he child will a full and informative overview of an entire subject, including benefits and good points of an activity as well as the negative elements and long term implications. This will also give the individual child a sense of responsibility and equip them with the tools to be considered decision makers, which over time can build mutual trust between a parent and child.
An example of this can be seen in a typical parent’s conversation with their child concerning sexual awareness. This talk generally consists of informing the child of the dangers of unprotected sex and the potential of sexually transmitted disease and teenage pregnancy. What they fail to discuss however is the pleasure and satisfaction that can be gleaned from a sexual act, and how sex can be enjoyed when performed responsibly between consenting individuals. By parents focusing solely on the negative aspects of the sexual experience, it can lead to mistrust when a child does experiment with sex and enjoys the actual act, as they presume that the parent has misled them through the selective use of information. It is a principle that can apply to both the use of drugs and alcohol, as the short term effects of these substances can be enjoyable and uplifting but are often ignored by parents looking to educate their children on such matters. Such incidents can discourage the child from communicating with their parents further, and force them to find their own answers through experience rather than discourse.
Mutual Trust and Changing Behavioural Trends
Of course, the application of such honesty and detail requires the parent to display a level of trust in their child in the first instance. It is something that some parents are loathe to do in the current social climate, as guardians are increasingly sensitive and overly protective towards their child’s place in an ever unpredictable world. However, this lack of responsibility that children are afforded may actually be a contributing factor to the social problems amongst teenagers in contemporary culture, and only by modifying parents attitude towards children can behavioural patterns be changed for the better. Presenting children with the full facts and decision making capability also helps them to best develop and understanding of actions breeding consequence, and improves their overview of the society in which they live.