Teenage Pregnancy – Part I

The Impact of Childhood Pregnancy on Education-Middle School Students

In June 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States officially overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion. States will now have the option to decide whether to restrict or criminalize abortion.

While this has a far-reaching impact on almost every aspect of society, one of the most vulnerable populations impacted are preadolescents, girls between the ages of 11 and13 and teenagers.  These kids are often forced to drop out of the school but virtual classes enable them to obtain their General Educational Development (GED) certificate without having to attend traditional schooling.

With the federal right to an abortion revoked, states can make it illegal to have an abortion, even in cases of incest, rape, human trafficking, or sexual assault. What each state decides remains to be seen, but to date Florida, Arizona, and Texas have all signed bills that intend to ban abortion even in these horrific instances.

This, combined with the fact that that only 18 states are required to teach students about birth control and just 13 states require sexual education to be medically accurate, means that preadolescents may not be equipped with comprehensive sex education.  And in many instances they are not able to spot the early signs of pregnancy. While the traditional education curriculum is decided on a state level, virtual education allows greater flexibility in subjects taught in school.

While most research on adolescent pregnancy focuses on teen pregnancy, studies show that the birth rate among girls aged 10 to 14 has dropped from 1.4 births per every thousand girls in 1991 to 0.2 births in 2020. This drop is attributed to lower rates of sexual activity and increased use of birth control methods.  Despite this significant reduction, the U.S still has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the Western world.

While little is known about the sexual behavior of young adolescents, a study of 1,200 public schools in Los Angeles with a mean age of 12.3 found that:

  • 20% had received sexually explicit messages.
  • 5% had sent sexually explicit messages to another person.
  • 15% of those with cell phones reported sexting.
  • Those who reported receiving a sext were six times more likely to be sexually active.
  • Those who reported sending a sext were four times more likely to be sexually active.

Another study found that 5% of 6th graders reported having sexual intercourse. While these figures are relatively low, the effects of pregnancy on preadolescents and adolescents are significant. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that:

  • Only 50% of mothers who went through teen pregnancy receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age.
  • Children of teen pregnancy mothers are more likely to drop out of high school, have health problems, and be incarcerated.
  • Addressing racial and geographic disparities is crucial for lowering the adolescent birth rate.

In the U.S, teen and child pregnancy is the top reason that girls and young women drop out of school. While discriminating against pregnant students is banned by federal law, it is nonetheless widespread in nuanced ways, including:

  • Refusal of excused absences for doctors’ appointments and childbirth.
  • Teachers disallowing make-up work for missed school days.
  • Derogatory comments from students and teachers.
  • Exclusion from school activities.

Virtual learning became prevalent during the global pandemic and is still a viable alternative for families and young girls who want to complete their education despite falling pregnant. Virtual schools offer a complete curriculum including graduation and can often better support students due to a significant drop in bullying.

Owing to the very nature of the virtual classes, pregnant middle schoolers are protected from social exclusion and derogatory comments. One of the most significant virtual learning benefits is that classes still offer the social aspect of learning, teachers and students still work together and virtual schools tend to blend various virtual aspects of learning which make it more conducive for all students.  Virtual school schedules allow more flexibility for things like doctors appointments.