Continuing my interview with producer, Kristen Grieco Elworthy on the teen pregnancy story that made international headlines and is now a documentary:
Why did those who got pregnant want to get pregnant as a teen?
What was my own observation, as a woman about 10 years older than these girls who personally put college/career above having kids? I saw some level of girls who did not have an identity or maybe did not feel that they were “good” at anything, and motherhood was an answer for them. As women, we are told that we all have the capability to be a good mother. Imagine the draw of that…
…if you are feeling that you have no other purpose in life. This type of theory is supported by research. I should add that no statement I’m making describes all the girls, but I personally felt that some fell into this category.
Those who became mothers, what are their lives like now?
This question brings up a good point. Not all 18 girls did end up having their children. The exact numbers are still a bit sketchy and we’re not sure of why some babies were not delivered due to medical privacy laws.
The girls who did have their children have very varied lives. Some still live with their parents. Others live with boyfriends (either the fathers of their children or new men). Some are alone. They all struggle day to day with being parents at such a young age, most have not pursued higher education and they work retail, etc. to make ends meet.
For the most part, these girls live for their kids. They seem to truly be trying to do the right thing–but it’s easy to see that they have it far rougher than someone in a more traditional situation, or someone who at least had the chance to finish their education and start earning some sort of income before being thrust into parenthood.
The occurrence of second and even third children among these girls is FAR higher than the national average of 25%. We are taping some updates now and may recut the film to include why this might be the case. We also want to update to show what has happened to these girls once the cameras went away. By revisiting them, we give them another chance to complete their stories, which I think are really important to understanding the psyche of teen mothers.
What does the film tell us about teen pregnancy today?
Every girl in our film told a different story, but there are some universal truths that we saw about teen pregnancy. First, it’s so important to give girls self-confidence and a vision for the future. They can be moms, and great ones at that, but that should not be looked at as the “default” necessarily. Give them the confidence to pursue education and a career, because all of us should have the ability to support ourselves–and our children.
Having open, honest conversations about teen pregnancy is so important. Twenty percent of all teen pregnancies ARE intentional–that number is huge! And with 750,000 girls getting pregnant in the U.S. each year, that percentage is particularly significant. But teen pregnancy affects more than just the mom. The child is the biggest collateral; kids of teen parents just don’t do as well in school, aren’t as healthy, are more likely to face teen pregnancy, poverty, and even incarceration, studies show.
And for the rest of us? The effects of teen pregnancy cost billions of dollars of taxpayer money a year. It’s a problem that we should all be interested in facing and fixing.
To her idea of sending the message that motherhood should not be looked at as the “default,” I say amen to that. My post interview musings on this topic to come…
What are your thoughts about teen pregnancy today?