Friday, May 20, 2011

Thoughts on "Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month"

I picked up a book recently that was simply fascinating in its disingenuousness, “Why We’re Liberals: a Political Handbook for Post-Bush America,” by Eric Alterman. The book’s format is catechial, with his asking a question and then appearing to answer it. The problem is, he never really answers the question.

For instance, Chapter Nineteen is called “Why do Liberals Love “Activist Judges”?” where Alterman simply dodges the questions of why or whether liberals like judges who legislate from the bench, and why or whether this is a good thing, by pointing out instead that conservative judges have in many cases also usurped legislative functions.

Or Chapter Sixteen, “Why Do Liberals Hate Religion” is mostly taken up with a discussion of how there are plenty of religious liberals, like Jim Wallis, and that their only real objection is to “Biblical literalism” that threatens the separation of church and state. Alterman never acknowledges, or even mentions, that the primary role of religion is in dealing with personal sin, whereas the predominant trend in liberalism thought for at least the last forty years is that personal failings are usually a result of social and environmental factors, which largely negates the idea of personal sin.

Which leads us back to Chapter Twelve, “Why Won’t Liberals Admit That America is Suffering from a Crisis in Moral Values” where Alterman devastates the opposition by pointing up that the Teenage Pregnancy Rate has been falling for the last twenty years!
So, let’s look at the "problem" of teen pregnancy.

Like all pregnancy rates, teen pregnancy was at an historical low in 1940, primarily because after ten years of economic depression people just weren’t having a lot of babies. And then the rate shoots up with post-war prosperity to an all time high around 1960, but this isn’t a problem because throughout the 1950’s the average bride was only 20.3 years old. That’s right: about half of all brides were teenagers, so naturally the teen pregnancy rate would be high. Since 1960, the average bride has aged some five years (she is now 25.6) and teenage marriages have become a rarity.

What hasn’t gone down is the rate of Illegitimate Births! The Out -Of-wedlock Birth Rate rose steadily from 1940 to 1990 and has remained fairly stable in the low forties per thousand since then. About twenty times what it was in 1940.

Even more distressing, Birth Out-Of-wedlock as a percentage of Total Births has grown from a negligible one in fifty in 1940, to one in three today. Putting all moral or religious concerns aside, this is still an important issue from a purely practical standpoint. I didn’t have to look very far to find dozens of documented ill effects of bastardy, a sampling of which I offer below:

  • Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality.
  • A majority victims of child sexual abuse came from disrupted or single-parent homes. Whereas only 31% of sexually abused children live with both biological parents, 42% lived in single parent homes, and 27% of the abused children lived with either a stepfather or the mother's boyfriend.
  • According to police reports, 49% of all child abuse cases are committed by single mothers.
  • Children of never-married mothers are more than twice as likely to have been treated for an emotional or behavioral problem and six times as likely to exhibit violent behavior at school.
  • Children in single-parent families tend to score lower on standardized tests and to receive lower grades in school and are nearly twice as likely to drop out of school as children from two-parent families.
  • Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes.
  • The proportion of single-parent households in a community predicts its rate of violent crime and burglary, but the community's poverty level does not. The relationship between family structure and crime is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature.
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes

The fact that nowadays the overwhelming majority of teen mothers are unmarried masks the real problem but, when you separate these variables, statistical analysis shows that the real problem is bastardy. The emphasis on “Teenage Pregnancy” is simply a red-herring, a way of pretending to deal with a social problem while avoiding the real issue. It is a way of being “nice” and “non-judgmental,” of not appearing to “stigmatize” people, when a revival of the social stigma against bastardy is exactly what is needed.

What we need is a Bastard Prevention Month!

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