Moral Panic

Decent Essays
Teenage pregnancy and parenthood are often seen as strictly negative and problematic, with the moral panic surrounding them only growing as media and government play a role in perpetuating these ideas of negativity surrounding them. Though it is a contentious issue, what are often ignored are the underlying causes of the social phenomena that are teenage pregnancy and parenthood. The experiences of poverty and social exclusion by many pregnant teens and teen parents have not been proven to be more severe than what these young people were experiencing before, so it brings into question the validity of the moral panic as well as the aims of programs meant to decrease teen pregnancy and parenthood. Looking at teen pregnancy and parenthood, first…show more content…
Then, following connecting the causes and responses to teenage pregnancy and parenthood, the validity and effectiveness of the policy responses will be assessed. Successes and shortcomings will be considered, along with suggestions as to what policy and structural changes would be more advantageous. Finally, this paper will conclude that teen pregnancy is a structural issue not individual one, if it can even be considered an issue at all. Policy changes alone will not be sufficient, as social and economic disadvantage does not go away if one doesn’t get pregnant. Instead, it involves targeting societal values at their root, which is not socially or economically as simple as just introducing reports and growing a social panic largely against those who already face many obstacles. The numbers surrounding teen pregnancy and parenthood need to be examined before exploring any causes, reactions and responses to the phenomenon. The United Kingdom has consistently ranked second among developed countries with highest rates of teenage pregnancy. 15% of British women were found to have given birth before reaching the age of 20 in a 2001 study. The same research reported that 21% of British women reported non-use of contraceptive methods such as condoms at the time of their first sexual intercourse (Darroch et al.,…show more content…
Low expectations are tied to social inequality, and the “Poverty and social exclusion in Britain” study taken at the time as the TPS reported that a third of British children and youth were facing poverty and deprivation (Gordon et al., 2000). Poverty has inexorable ties to these low expectations, as disenfranchisement with institutions of education and the labour market are part of the vicious cycle of deprivation, and pregnancy is sometimes seen as a way out of this cycle.
Many further studies into the phenomenon of teenage pregnancy and parenthood, such as Moffitt’s 2002 “Teen-aged mothers in contemporary Britain” conclude that “young mothers encountered more socio-economic deprivation, had significantly less human and social capital, and experienced more mental health difficulties. Their partners were less reliable and supportive, both economically and emotionally, and were more antisocial and abusive” (Moffitt, 2002). This perpetuates the idea that having children does not alleviate poverty or the conditions of it in any way, and in fact shifts the responsibility on to the individual by implying that these women don’t have the motivation to aspire towards more, and delay pregnancy for that reason. What studies such as this one does is that it ignores the idea that pregnancy can actually be used effectively
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