Trying to distinguish the effects of teenage pregnancy is a complex task given the difficulty in separating pre-existing conditions and those that are a direct result of adolescent pregnancy. Despite this complication, though, there is a large amount of research which shows that a pregnant teenager will encounter a great deal of negative effects. First and foremost of these effects of teenage pregnancy is the emotional stress of being pregnant at such a young age and of having to make a decision as to what to do about the pregnancy.
Teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of school than their peers who are able to avoid pregnancy. Statistics from 1997 show that only 41% of adolescents who have children before they reach 18 years of age graduate from high school, compared to 61% of adolescents from similar backgrounds who delay pregnancy until at least 20 or 21 years of age.
Because many teenage mothers drop out of school, another of the effects of teenage pregnancy is their lack of necessary job skills to be successful in the work force. Many teenage mothers then become dependent on public assistance. Over 75% of all unmarried teen mothers go on welfare within 5 years of the birth of their first child. On the flip side, though, some studies have shown that for teenagers who live in poverty, getting pregnant and being supported by the father of the child could be a “survival mechanism” to avoid an even more hopeless situation.
Adolescent mothers may not have adequate parenting skills and could harm the psycho-social development of their child, resulting in another one of the effects of teenage pregnancy. Studies show that teenage mothers do not provide their children with stimulation through touch, smiling, and verbal communication, nor do they seem sensitive to their child’s needs. Furthermore, children of teenage mothers are more likely to suffer from poor nutrition. Many adolescents, in addition, show a great deal of anger towards their child and rely heavily upon punishment. Indeed, the incidence of developmental disabilities and behavioral issues is higher in children of teenage mothers.
When these children grow up, they often exhibit poor academic performance, failing to graduate, being held back, and scoring poorly on standardized tests. Daughters of teenage mothers are more likely to fall into the trap of teen pregnancy themselves and sons of teenage mothers are three times more likely to go to prison.
Effects of teenage pregnancy also include health risks for the mother and the child. Indeed, women aged 15-19 experience four times the risk of maternal mortality compared to 25 to 29 year old women. The risk is even higher for girls aged 10 to 14 and the children of these adolescent are more likely to fall sick or die in infancy.