East (1998) argues that childbearing by teenagers can have the effect of making the younger siblings more susceptible to the same fate. The study that I will discuss in this paper concerns teenage pregnancy and its effects on the younger siblings of adolescent girls who give birth in their teens. The study, “How an Adolescent’s Childbearing Affects Siblings’ Pregnancy Risk: A Qualitative Study Of Mexican American Youths”, was conducted by researchers Patricia L. East, Ashley Slonim, Emily J. Horn, Cyndy Trinh and Barbara T. Reyes (2009). The study was conducted between 2005-2007 and sampled 41 Mexican American girls from Southern California between the ages 12 years and 18 years. Brooks and Chase (1991) state that teenagers having babies can cause a lot of strain in the family.
The ideas and opinions that emerged after the interviews were defined as either risk factors, or protective factors. The risk factors were those ideas and opinions that were likely to encourage the siblings to become pregnant too; and the protective factors were those ideas and opinions that were wont to discourage the siblings from engaging in activities that would likely lead to early pregnancy. There were six risk factors (feeling that early parenting was not hard; difficulty with school; desiring a baby for themselves; social isolation; familial isolation; positive remarks on the baby by relatives and even friends). The protective factors on the other hand were (desire to delay parenting; opinion that being a parent was tough; the parent expressly discouraging pregnancy; mother being closer to the sibling; older sister expressly discouraging pregnancy; protectiveness/sheltering from the mother; better performance in school; having positive role model; parent talking about sex and contraception; parent implicitly being against pregnancy).
The researchers aforementioned collected the data and information through interviews in the girls’ homes over the three years and subsequently concluded that it would be better for parents and generally families that had a pregnant teenager and younger female siblings to emphasize the protective factors and discourage the risk factors.
The first voice (The social psychologist)
Here I will analyse the findings like a run-of-the-mill social psychologist, with the suitable audience being that of fellow social psychologist interested in the results of research. The research clearly shows that either way the younger siblings of adolescent mothers are affected by the pregnancy and the birth of their sister’s child. The impact of having their sister’s baby in the house leads to either a likelihood that they themselves might also get pregnant or the likelihood that they will take steps to avoid getting pregnant like their sisters. Some siblings were affected negatively by the presence of the child in the house and this even affected their grades in school. This comes about when the child in the house makes it difficult for the younger sibling(s) to concentrate on her schoolwork because most likely the sibling shares facilities with her sister and the constant attention that babies demand (since the siblings have to help out with the baby sometimes) may lead to them not concentrating on school work and their grades then drop.
Other siblings held the perception that parenting was not as difficult as they would have imagined, especially if the elder appears to be up to the task of taking care of the child. 66% of the girls were connected to this risk factor. This leads the siblings to become amenable to the idea of getting pregnant when that opportunity arises since they feel that parenting was something that could be easily done, judging by the actions of their bigger sisters. A factor that was also placed as a risk factor was the natural teenage you-got-it-so-I-want-it attitude that drives the siblings to desire a child simply for the sake of wanting one, without considering the immense responsibilities associated with it. These, among the other before mentioned risk factors are to be discouraged to avoid the likelihood of the younger sibling getting pregnant.
On the other hand, when the mother and sister explicitly or implicitly discourage the sibling from engaging in unprotected sex and such activities that may lead to pregnancy, the likelihood of the younger sibling falling pregnant is low. As for the protective factors, many of the teenagers felt the increased desire to delay parenting from observing their sisters’ travails with taking care of the baby. All but one of the girls interviewed expressed this opinion (98%). Many also expressed the understanding and appreciation that parenting was a difficult task, and this was a protective factor. For many of the siblings, the mother’s effect on ensuring that they do not go down the same road as the elder sister was high. For instance, for 68% of them if the mother openly expressed the fact that teenage pregnancy was not tolerated, and the mother’s increased protectiveness towards the younger sibling – 27%; and finally her implicitly discouraging the act of getting pregnant (20%) all played a huge role in being protective factors or factors that would make them less likely to get pregnant. Therefore mothers clearly play a huge role in this matter.
The second Voice (Overlapping Insider/Outsider status)
In this presentation of the research findings I will immerse myself in the findings and analyse them as a personal triumph and try to encourage those out there who are undergoing the challenges of raising kids yet they are just teenagers. As a person who has lived in a household where an elder sister got pregnant in her teens, the research itself, the findings and results are very personal to me. Hence I will analyze the research findings through the lens of personal experience, and while objectivity may at different times of this analysis be compromised, a fresh and different angle to the research findings will be attained. In her article, researcher Ayala (1998) shed off her social psychologist skin and wore a more intimate form as she delved into her Latina roots, where she was able to understand some responses from her respondents only when she read them as the Latina daughter that she is, listening to another Latina daughter speak.
To have a child as a teenager can be at once a scary and lonely experience. Coming from a family that has had a daughter (my elder sister) get pregnant in her teens, the most important lesson that we learnt as a family was that of offering moral support. Although the teenager may have erred and not acted as a good role model to the rest of her siblings, how the family handles the entire episode will determine how the rest of the siblings will end up insofar as teenage relationships and teenage pregnancies go. As the research findings suggest, the mother (parents) should reinforce the perception that while the act of the daughter getting pregnant is not to be tolerated, she should be supported in the care of her baby and not to be vilified, the responsibility of having a child was tough enough already.
None of the other siblings got pregnant in teenage hood, and that was credit to none other than my sister herself who eventually turned out to be a true role model, whom we all look up to when the going gets tough. Having learnt the ropes, she would advise all her younger sisters concerning sex, the value of waiting, the beauty of real love and the tough job that parenting was. Not only would we listen to her, but we could see the strain that parenting sometimes brought to her.
Indeed it took a teen hood mistake from her to make her a better person; even better that she was before. And in truth, for her, the pregnancy was a blessing in disguise. She had to be more responsible, more patient, more forbearing and most importantly more forgiving. I feel that is the angle that should be emphasized too, that there can be life after pregnancy for the young girls who get pregnant in their teens.
This is the message I feel should also be encouraged. All necessary measures should be taken by parents to try to help their daughters avoid pregnancy early in their life, but should it happen, it should not be viewed as an end of a chapter, but as a the beginning of a journey that can eventually be fulfilling even as families grapple with the new “unplanned for” entrant to the family. Furstenberg (1980) posits that the impact of early child bearing can be massive on a family already struggling financially. Reyes & Horn (2007) concur.
Third voice (A Letter to All Teenagers)
I greet you all in the name of FUN!
I know right now you are not really in the mood for being lectured, so I will not give one. You’ve got your pager beeping, your IPod is playing some rock music that has your head swinging up and down as vigorously as the elasticity of your neck allows. But that doesn’t fool me that you are nodding in agreement to these words that I write especially for you.
I know teenage life is tough, and you always feel like you are one giant fireball that everyone wants to extinguish! You got all these hormones that are raging and you always want to be on the go, and that is all perfectly fine. Anyone who tells you otherwise is really just trying to extinguish a giant fireball, and no prizes for guessing how that’s going to end!
So before you start rolling your eyes backwards and giving me that you-want-to-talk-about-fireballs look, I will get straight to my point. It has to do with fireballs actually, but I mean it as that those high energy bursts that you get all the time. I think I have a suggestion of how best you can use ALL that energy for the good of everyone (well you could start by taking out the trash or cleaning up with Dad and Mum after dinner…)
But its one word really – Play! Play! Play! Never stop playing throughout your teen years. Play while cheerleading, play while playing basketball play while learning and play while playing! There will never be a period again in your life where you will have so much energy, and so many legal places on which to dispense with the energy. Enjoy your teen hood years while they last, because a future time will come when the big R word – Responsibility – will stop you occasionally when you will want to play. Therefore play all you must, and play all you want now. But I only have one word of caution. Play fair. This is not too much to ask I know. Do not play with certain dangerous “objects” (like a girl’s or a boy’s heart), much less his or her body. Play it fair, and play fair games.
So keep on playing my friend, and have all the fun, because teenage years are the most exiting years in a person’s life. There is so much to play, and there is all the energy to play!
I just hope you can remember what objects to avoid playing with, and what games to avoid playing. Thanks for your time; I know you were busy doing something else more exciting, so I appreciate you taking the time, I assure you it was worth your while.
Ayala, J., Bertram, C., Carney, S., Centrie, C., Cumiskey K., Fine M… Weseen, S. (1998). Speed bumps: Reflections on the methods and politics of qualitative work. NY: Graduate School of Education Publications.
Brooks-Gunn J., & Chase-Lansdale L., Children having children: effects on the family system, Paediatric Annals, 1991, 20(9):467–481.
East, P. L, (1998). The impact of adolescent childbearing on families and younger siblings: effects that increase younger siblings’ risk for early pregnancy, Applied Developmental Science, 2(2):62–74.
East, P. L., Slonim, A., Horn, E. J., Trinh, C., & Reyes, B. T., (2009). How an adolescent’s childbearing affects siblings’ pregnancy risk: a qualitative study of Mexican American youths. Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 41(4), 210-217. Doi: 10.1363/4121009
Reyes BT & Horn E J., (2007). Association between adolescent pregnancy and a family history of teenage births, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, , 39(2):108–115.
Furstenberg FF, Jr., (1980). Burdens and benefits: the impact of early childbearing on the family, Journal of Social Issues, 1980, 36(1):64–87.