Staying in School Following a Teen Pregnancy
Unfortunately, motherhood is the leading cause of school dropout among teenage girls. Since teen pregnancy not only affects the educational achievement of the girl herself, but her baby as well, teen pregnancy is a huge concern in America. Our society has ever-increasing educational demands in order to qualify for a job which can actually support a family, making finishing high school and pursuing post-secondary education even more important.
Statistics about Teen Pregnancy
About half of teenage moms have a high school diploma compared to 89% of those who did not have a teen birth. A dismal four in ten mothers who have a baby prior to turning 18 will receive their high school diploma. Less than two percent of teenage girls who gave birth while in their teens will receive a college degree by the age of 30, and children of teen mothers are much more likely to drop out of school themselves. Further, children of teen mothers consistently do much worse overall in school than those children born to older parents, are 50% more likely to repeat a grade, and have a lower performance on standardized tests.
Who are the Teens at Risk?
There are several identified risk factors for having a baby prior to the age of 20, the first being early school failure. Those students who are behind a grade, consistently have poor grades or low test scores, or those students who drop out of school are as much as 2-5 times more likely to have a child before the time they would have completed high school.
Early behavioral problems, such as students who smoke, drink, use drugs or engage in delinquent activities are all much more likely to become teen parents, as are those who come from a dysfunctional family. The teens who reported supportive families, lived with both parents, and had better educated parents were less likely to have sex at a young age. Conversely, those students who came from families who paid little attention to what they were doing, had little communication, and didn't provide strong future values and goals are more likely to become teen parents. Income plays a significant part in whether a teen will become a teen parent; 85% of all teen births occur to lower income teens.
Programs to Help Teen Stay in School
More and more communities are offering programs aimed at helping teen parents, especially teen mothers, stay in school and get their diploma. Many high schools have a child development center close to the high school where babies of teen moms are able to be in school-sponsored daycare. The parents pay from $10-$40 per week for the daycare, and the teen moms come every day on their lunch break to feed, hold and play with their babies. The idea is to instill some level of responsibility into the teen parents by requiring them to pay at least a little for daycare, as well as to be involved in caring for their children.
Other programs recognize that many girls take off to have their baby, and, even though they intended to come back to school, they never do. These programs send social workers and volunteers out to make home visits, to drop of homework assignments and to check on the newborns, urging the girls to return to school within six weeks. Once the girls return to school, they have a reliable daycare to leave their babies while they begin attending their regular classes. The idea is that if the girls don't have a safe place to leave their baby, they will simply stay home, and end up not returning to school at all.
It appears that teenage fathers bear few of the costs of a teen pregnancy; 4/5 of them do not marry the mother of their child, they attain lower educational levels and experience earnings losses when compared with classmates who did not become teen fathers. Teen fathers are much more likely to finish school than teen mothers, although the goal is to keep both mother and father in high school until graduation day. When this problem is ignored, we have another entire generation with even more severe problems, so keeping teen parents in school is a very worthy goal.