Teen pregnancy, like obesity, is often framed as an “epidemic.” As such, both the “epidemic” of teen pregnancy and the “epidemic” of obesity can be understood through the lens of what sociologist Stanley Cohen popularized as a “moral panic.” In Cohen’s words, moral panics are “condensed political struggles to control the means of cultural reproduction”; additionally “successful moral panics owe their appeal to their ability to find points of resonance with wider anxieties.”
Is teen pregnancy a trouble or an issue? There are social factors that contribute to teen pregnancy, for example: drug use, lack of family/community support, no knowledge about contraception or lack of access to it, low self esteem, limited knowledge about sex/sexuality. In some cases, social and personal factors overlap. Therefore, teen pregnancy is a trouble for many and an issue for society.
To have a sociological approach about this, we have to take into account the three main perspectives that sociologist have toward analyzing sociological phenomena. Namely, symbolic interactionism, conflict theory and functionalism.
Structural functionalists (defend the status quo, avoid social change, and believe people cooperate to effect social order): Teen pregnancy helps to create jobs in certain industries like healthcare education, family planning clinics, and others. It can create dramatic upswings in populations quickly.
Symbolic interactionism (people attach meanings to symbols, and then they act according to their subjective interpretation of these symbols): One could look at teen pregnancy as an interpretation of symbols incorrectly. Many young women want to be perceived as older and more responsible. Therefore they may engage in higher risk behaviors like sexual intercourse. They might also not heed warnings from others about their risky behaviors.
Conflict perspective (focuses on the negative, conflicted, and ever‐changing nature of society): Teen pregnancies are more likely to involve poorer parents. Similarly parents are less likely to have higher paying jobs later due to familial obligations/splitting of a family unit. The result is a population that can be easily controlled from the rich (marxist train of thought).
Similarly, teens may indeed want to be pregnant as a way to rebel against the oppressive forces of a different generation. This creates a conflict between these two groups.
To conclude, is up to each one of us to choose and place ourselves in one (or more) of these three perspectives. I believe is important to understand everyone’s view and to find a balance in every aspect of our lives.
Written by Ana-Maria Gulin