Teenage Moms as Role Models for Younger Generation
Are Young Mums Role Models?
The typical ‘teen mum’: irresponsible, a bad mum, a secondary school dropout and living in poverty. They are portrayed to the British public in the media as careless and incapable mothers, but do we really think beyond the snap judgements about the influence that these young mums have on young girls in the UK? With television programms dedicated to them, teen mums are frequently spoken about in our society and raise many important issues such as benefit fraud, dangers to the unborn child, and education and childcare problems once the baby is born. As a nation, the United Kingdom is faced with the highest teenage birth rate in Western Europe and a staggering 40.4 females per 1000 fall pregnant aged 15-17, despite the National Health Services’ free and confidential advice on contraception and safe sex as a teenager, whether it be from your general practitioner or your local sexual health clinic.
As these teen mums are all over the media in television programmes, radio interviews and magazines, we can see that some of the young mothers manage to persevere through the financial and emotional difficulties and show that with hard work, they can still be successful and lead the life they would like to live. These young mothers have to go through many tough times, and are hit with the backlash of their actions and what some might call ‘careless behaviour.’ One young mother in particular told the Telegraph her whole story; she fell pregnant at sixteen and had to complete her GCSE exams in her third trimester of pregnancy. But through all of her hardship, at twenty-six the ‘teen mum’ had gained herself a Master’s degree and could easily provide for her and her ten-year-old son. Although to be able to study for a degree, this mother obviously would have had to consider getting help to look after her son. For example, her own mother and father were left to care for him whilst she was at university. But stories like this young mothers’ show that being in that situation is not ideal but you can still turn your life around and inspire other younger mums who cannot seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, because these young mothers are so frequently spoken about in the media, all of this publicity has the potential to promote teenage pregnancy in our society, as they are shown so often to audiences mainly consisting of young teenage girls, who may not see the negative impacts of becoming a parent at such a young age. It has been proven that kids in care, children that are struggling at school, families with children that live in poorer parts of their town or city and kids that live in lower class families are more likely to become teen mums, as they may not have access to correct contraception, education on contraception and its availability to them, and safe sex and the consequences of falling pregnant (and deciding to keep their baby) at such a young age and early stage of their life. Girls that are children of teenage parents are also more likely to become young mothers as their parents are leading by example of their own choices.
But on the other hand, everybody is entitled to make their own choices on when it is right for them to have children. Every individual is ready to bare and look after children at different times of their lives, and whether the individual believes that they are ready when they are still in their younger stages of life or if they would rather wait until a later stage of their life. Age does not define one’s level of maturity and there is no set age on when it is the right time in your life to begin having children. Being ready to provide for children is a personal choice and if an individual believes they are in the right financial position and are able to care for a child, then society should not judge the person for making their own decisions.
Consequently, by choosing to have children at such a young age and so early on in your life, it can impact your education by a great deal. Whether the young mum is still at school or at college or university, having children whilst being in full time education is not easy. One teen mum in particular fell pregnant at 16, and because of this, she failed her exams. She then started university later than expected due to her failed exams, and this resulted in just an average part-time job. There is no way to prove that this woman would have had a better job if she was not a teen mum, but she would have had more of her time to spend revising for exams, or perfecting her coursework for university.
Lastly, by making the choice to have children at a young age, it increases the amount of events and experiences you can share with your child. Milestones such as experiencing their wedding (if they choose to be wed), and having them meet their grandparents or great grandparents. As the older you are when you decide to have children, the less likely it is that they will get to meet sets of grandparents and possible great grandparents. If you choose to wait until you are older to have children, sometimes you cannot partake in active activities with your child that a younger parent may have been able to. Some mothers claim that by having children earlier in your life can create a stronger bond between you and your baby, as there is not as much of an age gap and difference in generations.
However, deciding to bare children so early can open the almost ‘easy’ route in life. It is certainly not easy being a parent, especially so young, but it does open the door to unemployment and living on benefits for the foreseeable future. In the United Kingdom, if you are under eighteen years of age, a single mother and living with your parents, then you are entitled to claim child benefits, child tax credit and universal credit, and you are also entitled to income support. These benefits that are given out by the government leads to almost 80% of single teen mums end up living on benefits. Benefit fraud is also very common in the UK, with many younger mums taking advantage of the system by making false claims on their employment leading to them receiving benefits that they shouldn’t, and free childcare that shouldn’t be offered to them. Only 1.5% of young mothers have gained themselves a degree by the age of thirty and almost 66% of teen mums do not make it to their last year of high school.
In conclusion, teen mums and teen pregnancies do raise a large number of controversial discussions. Personally, I believe that teen mothers really can be a good role model to young people in our society in some instances, but for every good role model who has fought through the hard times to be successful that is displayed to young girls, there are also the teen mums that are unemployed and rely on benefits. Although, it is entirely up to the individual themselves to decide if they are ready to bring a child into this world or not.
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