Negative implications surrounding teen pregnancies are a relatively new concept. Women in the 1800s were expected to marry early in life with many being married before the age of 20. Early marriage was not only expected, but necessary. Life spans were significantly smaller in the 1800s and the sole reason for women was to procreate and support the men in their lives. In 1800 the average household consisted of seven children. That number dropped to four children by the 1900s. As lifespanincreased, the number of children per household decreased and the average age at the time of marriage increased. Today, women often wait until their late 30s to get married and have children.
Changing Times Call for Changing Ideals
While teen pregnancy rates are still higher than experts would like, the numbers are falling in the United States. Initiatives to lower teen pregnancy rates even further are constantly being examined, but why the strong focus on reducing teen pregnancy rates when the history of our society is based on teen pregnancy?
Changes in the role of women in society are the main cause for the push to lower teen pregnancy rates. In the 1800s and early 1900s, women served one role and one purpose in life – to be mother/wife. As women started entering the workforce and cost of living rose to the point where both parents needed to work to raise a family firmly planted in the middle class, teen pregnancy no longer had a place. College replaced marriage as the major milestone of the early 20s and after college came career, then marriage and children. Teens no longer married before becoming pregnant so there was no financial stability or society-approved definition of family. Teen pregnancy costs an estimated billion a year in the US alone.
So changing times have called for changing ideals, which leads to the current taboo of teen pregnancy. Where once marriage and parenthood was the primary goal in young girl’s lives, today lives education and career. The taboo is here to stay and may even extend into the early 20s in the not so distant future.