Latina Teen Pregnancy Rate Deserves Recognition as National Crisis

LatinaLista — Today is the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
It’s a day that should be solemnly observed by every Latino family with teenage children. Why?

Because while the overall national rate of teen pregnancy has declined, it has actually increased among Latina girls.

Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said, “The teen pregnancy rate for Hispanic teens increased slightly between 2003 and 2004 and, for the first time, Hispanic teens now have the highest rates of both teen pregnancy and births. Also, data released in December 2007 show a 3% increase in the teen birth rate between 2005 and 2006, the first increase in the teen birth rate in 15 years.”

These statistics force the Latino community to ask ourselves a very important question:
Why do young Latinas want to get pregnant?


There’s no clearer sign that too many Latina teens are having babies than the title of a segment on a popular Dallas Latino hip hop radio station — Baby Daddy Hotline. Girls who have problems with the fathers of their children call in to complain to the DJ. There’s always a full line-up of calls.
A friend recently told me that her daughter, who attends a majority-Latino, public middle school (6th, 7th and 8th grades) in Dallas, Texas, told her that there were 26 girls pregnant at her school. She routinely has 1-3 girls, at minimum, in her classes who are pregnant.
But what is equally shocking is that her daughter said that the girls sit around and talk about how they “planned their pregnancies.”
It’s comprehensible that girls would plan for sex since sex is equated with sexiness and attractiveness and is so overtly glamorized in music videos and movies. There’s no pre-teen or teenage girl who doesn’t want to feel attractive and wanted by boys, but the idea that a fat belly is equally a turn-on is just a plain mystery.
Part of this escalating teen pregnancy among Latina teens can be traced back to the schools, but we can’t blame educators. School administrators’ hands are tied in teaching any realistic lessons on sex education and prevention. The jury ruled a long time ago that teaching only abstinence just doesn’t work — unfortunately, the Latino community has had to pay the price for such wishful directives from Washington.
Some would argue that the blame should be directed at the parents but that doesn’t entirely work either. For one thing, teenagers, of any ethnicty, always think they know more than their parents and don’t easily volunteer information. Couple that logic with language barriers (child is fluent in English, parent is not), parents too busy working several jobs and too exhausted to keep up with their children or dangerous neighborhoods where gang influence and drug use are a part of life as they know it.
All of these are scenarios that play a part in teens getting pregnant but one other scenario that has never really been discussed is that some teens who get pregnant are continuing a family cycle — they see it as a tradition.
Mom got pregnant young, dropped out of school, had more kids, worked dead-end jobs, never thought about school again. Daughter follows mom’s footsteps.
We see from the statistics that this scenario plays out more than is healthy for any society. When we also see that among Mexican-Americans there is a 23 percent poverty rate, then the future is pretty much foretold — Latinos, who will be the majority national demographic in the future, will be the least educated with the most children. Both factors will tax our society and imperil the future economic security of the country if something isn’t done.
The solutions are not hard to figure out but may shock those people who insist on believing that teens are as innocent as 4-year-olds or who have a Puritan mindset when it comes to sex:
1. TEACH realistic sex education in the schools. Recognize the fact that teens are having sex and have safe sex materials available for their use.
2. PROMOTE a “Better Future” program to parents starting in elementary school. Underscore the benefits of education and family communication. Instruct parents on what is proper television programming for children to watch and age-appropriate clothing. Create more opportunities for parents to share time with children, especially in middle school and high school.
3.INSPIRE students to see beyond today with innovative programming, field trips, guest speakers, projects, etc.
4. TAKE ADVANTAGE of the work being done by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and implement their research and ideas for teens.

The bottom line is that those teens who can only plan for their pregnancies are doing so because they can’t see a world with them doing anything more. It may be because they know they can be good parents but aren’t so confident of their educational prowess. Maybe they’ve never been praised or encouraged to try.
Whichever it is, today’s Latino teen pregnancy statistics underscore the need to start opening our eyes to what has the potential to change the economic course of the future of this country.
Resolving this problem can’t wait for the election of the next President but by the same token it can only start when people realize there’s a problem.
How many more Latinas have to aspire to be teenage moms before someone recognizes there’s a problem?

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20 Comments

  1. Daniel said:

    “planned their pregnancies.”
    Girls “trapping” guys is 10 million years old. They see a check for the next 18 years and they think theyre set.
    And guys dont think about the ramifications of having to support a kid for the next 18 years.
    That’s why I’m 48 and have a 29 year old daughter.
    Guys think about busting a nut. And only busting a nut.
    This is why our species has survived.
    My dad taught me to use a condom because he didnt want me leaving babies all over the place.
    My dad didnt teach me to be “good.” He taught me to be careful.
    Now I teach my son.
    Nevertheless, I see a problem with “teen” pregnancy only I’m not as critical or maybe cynical.
    What you call a “tradition” I call human nature.
    Mom got pregnant young, dropped out of school, had more kids, worked dead-end jobs, never thought about school again. Daughter follows mom’s footsteps.
    First, it doesnt matter if it’s a dead end job. So long as she works to support her kid(s).
    But anyway, comparing white teenage pregnancy to “Latina” pregnancy is a fallacy. Not that you did make that comparison but I think it’s there just the same.
    Remember Reverend Wright explaing how Euros have 7 notes to music while Africans have 5?
    We are not Latino or any other European.
    We are indigenous and we are programmed differently. In adition, we do not have white privilege. On the contrary, we are a colonized and a HUNTED people.
    In American society ( and also in my opinion) it’s best to put off pregnancy until after college and yes, marriage.
    But human nature doesnt work that way. American society is not in line with nature. American society is moving away from its Christian ideals. It is moving away from the family structure and towards two mommies and two daddies or the absence of a mother or father, alltogether. The father is more of a sperm donor today in gringo culture. A culture that demands child support when the average poor slob cannot even support his own loser self.
    This is a disaster waiting to happened since hormones are raging for 14, 15 year old males and females.
    In our old ways, in our old culture that is still alive and well today, there is a sun, a moon and there are the stars.
    The sun is the father, moon the mother and the stars are the kids.
    Any deviance from this and the society will perish.
    I dont know why it’s acceptable to prosecute 14 and 15 year olds as adults for crimes while at the same time they are considered children in gringo culture.
    In Maya-Mexica or Mixtec-Zapotec (or any other Mexican indigenous cultures)
    14 and 15 year olds are considered young men and women and are ready to make their own families.

  2. Texano78704 said:

    What you call a “tradition” I call human nature.
    “Mom got pregnant young, dropped out of school, had more kids, worked dead-end jobs, never thought about school again. Daughter follows mom’s footsteps.”
    First, it doesnt matter if it’s a dead end job. So long as she works to support her kid(s).
    What you call “human nature,” I call an institutionalized setup for failure.
    High pregnancy rates are directly linked to lack of education, not human nature.
    Whether it was called slavery 150 years ago, or, well into the twentieth century, Jim Crow laws, we still have institutional control of minority groups. Brown v. Board of Education has come and gone, but we still have separate and unequal educations systems. What we have are government policies as the result of “cheap labor conservatism.”
    Do you really think cheap labor conservatives care if Latinas get a good education and realize that is in their best interests to develop skills for better paying jobs; jobs paying wages that would move them into areas where public education is markedly better than what was available to them in their less than mediocre barrio public schools. ¡Claro qué no!
    You call it human nature, I call it class warfare.

  3. orlando said:

    I think a factor is that many latinas are not going to college, due to social, cultural and legal issues; without papers, you can’t get a good job, regardless of degree, so college is not attractive to undocumented teenagers; if you’re not going to college, there’s not much reason to delay childbearing.

  4. orlando said:

    I agree with solutions 2,3 and 4 on the article, but I’d modify 1 by qualifying; SOME teens are having sex, definitely NOT all of them.

  5. laura said:

    Hi Daniel,
    it is human nature to respond to desire and attraction. It is not human nature to have children at 16 years of age. Societies throughout history have had very different ages of first childbearing, and number of children. Traditional societies have used contraception much more effectively than today’s Latina/o youth.
    I think a huge weakness of Latino culture is the low value placed on womens’ achievements outside of looking beautiful and having babies. How many brilliant Latina doctors, engineers, carpenters, chefs, builders, screenwriters, lawyers etc. never emerged because girls’ education and achievements are not valued, not supported, and not rewarded? This community is losing out on a huge amount of its talent.
    We have to be realistic, Daniel, that the talents of today’s youth have different paths to growth and fulfillment than they did in Maya society of AD 900. If you insist on them pursuing the paths that were open in AD 900, they will now find themselves at dead ends very quickly. That can’t be good for them.
    I say this as a woman who is extremely lucky to have a challenging and fulfilling profession.
    One last point: Latino communities would be much better off if all the youths’ talent were encouraged to grow and blossom, boys’ as well as girls’. But the discouragement for girls to maximize their potential is much worse than for boys. And that is a challenge especially for Latino men to change.

  6. Daniel said:

    Laura,
    Respectfully, what are we to do?
    I have two daughters and my ex-wife, Viry, and I worried that one (or both) of them would become pregnant in their early teenage years.
    Of course, we watched them and Viry had/has an excellent relationship with them and I taught them what I could about teenage boys and older men.
    But we couldnt exactly place a chastity belt on them.
    They had to grow. They had to know the world for what it is.
    My eldest daughter is a professor at one of CA’s most prestigious communities. She has been published in English and in Japanese since she had a double major.
    I just received an email from her today about proposed humanities studies cutbacks at her U.
    My youngest daughter (about 24) is an undergrad at a Christian U here in CA.
    I’m not a fan of teenage pregnancy.
    I made another post that apparently didnt make the cut.
    But I think you’re right on the loss to our people/culture when our teenage girls get pregnant.
    But they can move with their lives and attend college and become entrepreneurs etc.
    Lastly, the Maya-Mexica et al. cultures are alive and well and so are the morals they have adhered to for thousands of years.
    -Daniel

  7. Frank said:

    Orlando, I am still trying to digest your words, “if you’re not going to college there is not much reason to delay childbearing”. There is a lot of reasont delay childbearing. I know of many minorities and less educated Whites who have decent jobs without having a college education. Once you prove yourself it is possible to work your way up the ladder in some jobs. I think it is just a cultural macho thing in the Latino community to breed young and to breed many. They will never achieve success with this stone aged view of procreation. Breed responsiblity. It isn’t necessary to have a half dozen clones of oneself.

  8. laura said:

    Congratulations, Daniel, on your successful, well-educated, multilingual daughters. Now I wish all Latino fathers (and mothers) would encourage the same dedication to study and to follow a dream, that you supported in your daughters.
    That won’t require a chastity belt. Just some realistic information about birth control and responsibility, as you must have given your daughters.

  9. Ex_OC said:

    Could any of this have anything to do with cultural norms? I am not Latino, but I have many friends who are. And they have told me that in Mexico, being a teenager and pregnant is a badge of honor. Of course, me, being an American, am appalled at this. But in other countries it is the norm. Because of unchecked illegal immigration, these norms are brought to the US.
    Personally, I find this a cultural norm that must be eradicated. We are no longer in the Agrarian Age where having many children at an early age was needed, to help farm the land. The world has evolved into way past the Industrialized Age, and these cultural myths are no longer valid. We have machines that help us till and sow the land. We do not need 10 children to help us till the land anymore.
    Third-world countries, such as Mexico, need to promote a national awareness of this 19th Century change. We are already in the 21st Century! Third-World govts should re-teach their citizens that it is OK now to have only 1 -2 children and only at a mature age.
    We are not cavemen anymore. And we are responsible to teach our own children that it is wrong to have children these days at such a young age. What was ok in Mama’s time is NOT ok now.
    Please, mothers out there, teach your children to be better people, not baby-making machines. IT IS NOT A BADGE OF HONOR IN THE US. Rather, it is a badge of Shame. In this day and age, NO teenager should have to sacrifice her life at such an early age for NOTHING. Yes, nothing. No farm to till!! Yes, it is for nothing good.
    OK, if I am wrong, please give me 3 reasons why it is OK to be pregnant at age 16. I would REALLY like to know.

  10. Horace said:

    “Why do young Latinas want to get pregnant?”
    Shhhh! Holy moley, Batman! You’re not supposed to mention this dirty little secret! It refutes the commonly advocated claim that Latinas/Latinos are the poster people for family values, and thus make the best of citizens.

  11. Frank said:

    We are going to turn into a third world country real fast with this stone aged view of procreation since it is mostly those from the Latino culture who are entering our country illegally by the millions.

  12. dw said:

    Can you all be any more racist? Making sweeping statements like “Because of unchecked illegal immigration, these norms are brought to the US,” is ridiculous. (If I recall correctly, every single pregnant girl I can think of back in high school was a US citizen. NOW what’s your excuse? It goes much further than “stop those illegalz!”)
    But I think Frank takes the cake with his breeder comments. It’s not new; nativists have referred to immigrants in animalistic terms since late-19th century nativism snowballed into its early-20th century tizzy.
    Still…Ironic, isn’t it, how we, the “refined” US citizen elite, have yet to evolve from Agrarian AND Industrial Era mentality regarding race?

  13. Frank said:

    The article speaks for itself, dw. It is a FACT that latinas start families at an early age and have many children. Since it is mostly those from that culture that are entering our country illegally, that just compounds this baby making problem in our country.
    There is nothing racist about the facts!

  14. adriana said:

    Frank,
    I would bet that most of the Latina teens having babies here in the US are citizens. I have worked with this population before, and what I have found is that the immigrant teens tend to be more conservative than their American counterparts.
    Citizen or not, they should all be made aware of the various birth control options.

  15. Frank said:

    You can bet all you want but in Parkland Hospital in Dallas alone, most of their births are from illegal alien mothers.
    It is going to take more than education to change this way of thinking. It is going to take a cultural change in their way of thinking. Catholicism has a lot to do with it also. The macho mentality needs to go away also on the part of the males. The females need to stop thinking of themselves as a baby making machines starting in early puberty. There is no need for families to have more than a 2-3 kids these days, especially living here in the U.S. where one needs a college education to make a decent living. They need to shed the ways of the old homeland. It is going to take cultural changes to make a difference. I have found that Hispanics of all other ethnic groups are adamant about retaining their cultural practices right down to their childbearing views.

  16. Alessandra said:

    This subject to me is too complex to be reduced to simplistic solutions.
    Many immigrant groups in the past which came here had large families–even those who did not live on farms. Italian, Irish, Polish families tended to be large.
    As long as a family is equipped financially and emotionally, the size of their family should be their decision IMO.
    However, we are discussing teenage pregnancy here and that is a more complex issue. I would like to see more details; such as, the family income levels of these young teenage mothers. Some say they are bringing their culture here, but are young teenagers from middle and upper class families in Mexico starting families in the early teens? Or are they more likely to resemble middle and upper class families in the U.S.? So, is this really a cultural characteristic, or one of economic class?
    I tend to think of it as one of class. Most of the immigrants right now from South of the border tend to come from the poorer and less educated segments of that society. Their cultural norm is to start childbearing at an early age. If they carry that cultural mindset here, it stands to reason they will continue this pattern here.
    However, many of the teenagers experiencing early childbearing were born and raised in the U.S. That could indicate that they are assimilating negatively into our culture (just as joining gangs and drug use indicates a negative assimilation).
    As a society, we have to pull together on these issues. Instead of trying to point a finger at a particular culture, we have to identify that there is a problem and look for practical solutions to it as it affects ALL of us as a society.

  17. Soreal said:

    It would be magnificent when every individual tries to improve life quality without demeaning anyone. I would like to read about the life perceptions of those girls that decided to have a planned or unplanned pregnancy. It’s beautiful to be a mother and even more beautiful to bring a baby to an environment with love, care and protection. All those supported with the basic things that could make the baby’s life be surrounded by a peaceful routine of a minimum degree of anxiety and desesperation. How can we help those young mothers that are victims of hormones, depression, lack of education, neglect, abandonment, abuse, etcetera? There’s too much poison and confusion that we don’t know where it’s comming from. Let’s help to create or provide energy to the light at the end of the tunnel… Let’s be proactive.

  18. elvia mata said:

    I am a teen mom. And no i did not see a when i got my bundle of joy. Instead i saw that i was 16 and i was about to become a mom of a babyboy. I wanted to die, but i had my baby because of support of my parents, family, friends, and boyfriend. I got pregnant because of a mistake but that did not mean that i stop going to school. And it dose not mean that anyone who has a kid a 36 is any better than I.

  19. Millie said:

    Elvia Mata,
    I don’t think that the people here are saying that good parenting comes with age (even though I do believe life experiences allow one to be a better mentor to children at times). The problem here is that for the most part a person that waits and plans parenthood is also financially stable and has at least an undergraduate degree under their belt. We are not judging character, but your ability to compete for a well paying job to provide your child a better education and a future away from poverty.
    You were lucky enough to have the support of your parents and the father of your child but that is not the reality for most pregnant teens. Teen pregnancy creates an economic and social crisis. As teen pregnancies increase so do women and families depending on government aid..does anyone see the cycle?
    -22 yrs old (NYC)

  20. teensproblems said:

    Informative and helpful article! the Latina teen pregnancy rate is increasing rapidly to a most considerable issues. The government should take necessary actions to control it. Parents might be the reason in some of the cases but parents should take enough measures to provide better facilities to their teens, where as in most of the cases poor teen are majorly effected. Parents should take professionals help to deal with a teenager and sharing their views in discussion boards helps them to gain more knowledge on various teens problems.
    http://www.troubledteensguide.com/parnetingquestions/Teenage-Pregnancy/index.html

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