Youth Support
Research Programmes

Early Pregnancy  - Part One : Part Two : Part Three : Part Four
Early Pregnancy

Why is early pregnancy a matter for concern and why should professionals devote resources to study and follow up? What are the outcomes for young parents and their offspring?

Looking Back

Many studies have looked at various aspects of early pregnancy. Long term case studies have been initiated in England and Jamaica which have provided important information – these have now reached a 20 year time span – a critical time for study of the ‘cycle’ of repetition.

In this new millennium we can look and see that the focus for research has shifted but the problems and questions remain the same. The passage of time has brought perhaps a wider awareness of the dilemma of early childbearing but the degree of hardship and unresolved pain is a cause for sadness as is the recurrent inability of the statutory authorities to understand the issues, grasp the nettle and do something constructive about it.


Teen pregnancy is not a new phenomenon In the sixteen hundreds a popular song ‘The Trees They Grow High’ spoke of the teenage marriage of Lord Craighton ‘At the age of fourteen he was a married man, At the age of fifteen the father of a son At the age of sixteen his grave it was green And death put an end to his growing ... And throughout history there have been famous early births and teenage romances.

Teen Queens  

In 1113 King Stephen married Matilda at age 8 and she gave birth at 15; Henry VIIth's mother was 14 when he was born and until the 16th century the average age of marriage of English Queens was under 16.




Contradictions and Dual Values  

Contradictions and dual values abound in society literature and religion. The Virgin Mary would have been about 12 when Jesus was born and of course Shakespeare’s Juliet was 13. Nelle Gwynne was 14 when having affair with Charles II 

Phases of Study  

The study of teenage pregnancy has followed several phases :-

Moral Phase

Scientific Phase

Humanitarian Phase

These have reflected the general society or cultural view of teenage pregnancy and thus the attitude of researchers. In some ways these evolving perspectives seemed to represent the process of the professionals working on their own issues and understanding their feelings regarding the matter rather than the process of providing help to affected youth and their families.

Moral Phase  

Teenage sexuality was regarded as threatening and thus early pregnancy and ‘illegitimacy’ were feared as portents of immorality and the fall of society

Early Work

Early studies in the 1980s concentrated on the following issues

Rates and Reasons  

Why?’ do teenagers get pregnant ? Early statistical analyses compared teen fertility to that of older women With time this has shifted to comparisons across cultures and countries

Eleven Million Teenagers  

In America Guttmacher 1976 produced the famous pyramid diagram and the catch phrase ‘Eleven million teenagers – what can be done about the epidemic of teenage pregnancies’

Unfortunately this ‘epidemic’ idea caught on which served to increase the fear of being overwhelmed by a flood of teen babies and pressure groups clamoured for a halt to promiscuity, sex education and contraceptive advice for youth.