Teenage pregnancy is one of those life events that few families anticipate, and the effects of adolescent pregnancy reach well beyond the young mother’s life, impacting the lives of other family members. Whether the pregnancy is terminated, the baby is placed for adoption or the child is regarded as an unexpected, but welcome, addition, the emotional, economic and social ramifications of teenage pregnancy can affect the entire family in significant and life altering ways.
Parental reactions to the news of a teen pregnancy include denial, guilt and anger; emotions often shared by the pregnant teen. The young father and his family can also experience similar feelings, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Depending on the family’s religious beliefs and social network, fear of being rejected or even ostracized can come into play. Many parents of a pregnant adolescent perceive the situation as a negative reflection on their own parenting skills. The pregnant teen can become depressed, which can also have a negative impact on the family’s overall emotional well-being. On the positive side, many families reach a point of acceptance, focusing their emotional energies on welcoming the infant and helping the teenager move forward with her life and education after the birth.
Whether a teenage mother chooses to terminate her pregnancy, give her baby up for adoption or keep the baby, the pregnancy and birth create financial obligations that most often fall on the young mother’s family. Many employee insurance plans deny maternity benefits to dependents, leaving families of teenage mothers to bear the burden of prenatal and delivery expenses, according to Kaiser Health News. After the baby’s birth, infant health care, combined with everyday expenses such as diapers, clothing and childcare, add up to create a major impact on the family budget.
Often a teenager’s mother steps in to raise her grandchild and her ability to rear her own children can be negatively impacted by these new demands. In some cases, having a teenage parent in the family prompts the new grandmother to increase the amount of attention she gives her other children, but in most cases her expanded obligations compromise her ability to care for her own offspring, according to Patricia L. East, of the University of California at San Diego’s Department of Pediatrics. This decreased parental focus can set the stage for additional teenage pregnancies, a situation that is more likely when the mother-grandmother is a single parent, states East.
A teenage pregnancy in the family can create a shift in goals, not only for the pregnant teenager, but for other family members as well. A pregnant teenager who had planned to go away to college after high school might obtain a GED and enroll in online college courses instead. The new grandparents might postpone continuing education or midlife career shifts in order to help their daughter with child-rearing obligations. A teenage pregnancy can have repercussions on the short-term goals of the entire family, as planned vacations and outings take a backseat to the more pressing issues surrounding the birth and care of the baby.
Teressa Rose Ezell has been writing professionally since 2010. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and English from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and is a Master of Fine Arts in writing candidate at Lindenwood University. Current projects include a short-story series and a collection of creative nonfiction essays.
Piotr Marcinski/iStock/Getty Images