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Teenage dreams

Written By: - Date published: 11:59 am, May 10th, 2012 - 56 comments
Categories: babies, families - Tags:

With the debate raging about free contraception for women and their teenage daughters, inevitably the conclusion is that irresponsible teenager girls are making poor decisions. Why do they get pregnant? That’s the easy part – teens not using contraception, of course. Why teenage pregnancy is an intractable problem is a much more complex question.

Will free contraception prevent some teenage pregnancies? Undoubtedly, more than 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended.

However targeting beneficiaries might be counterproductive because what appears crucial as well as free or low-cost contraceptives, is that “adolescents know where they can go to obtain information and services, can get there easily and are assured of receiving confidential, non-judgmental care”

To address high rates of unplanned teen pregnancies, both the biological and cultural contexts must be confronted.
A few references for the following points are:

Teen Pregnancy: The Tangled Web and the Wikipedia article on teenage pregnancy
The real mistake in ‘teen pregnancy’
The Psychological Effects of Teenage Women During Pregnancy
A regular refrain from studies of the underlying causes of teenage pregnancy is family violence and family breakdown.

1. Women who have been exposed to abuse (physical and sexual), domestic violence between parents, and family strife in childhood are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers, and the risk of becoming pregnant as a teenager increases with the number of adverse childhood experiences. Teenage girls who experience domestic violence themselves are more likely to become teen parents; a UK study found that 70% of women who gave birth in their teens had experienced adolescent domestic violence.

2. Studies have also found that boys who grow up in homes with a battered mother, or who experienced physical violence directly, were significantly more likely to impregnate a girl

3. Girls whose fathers left the family early in their lives had the highest rates of early sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy. Girls whose fathers left them at a later age had a lower rate of early sexual activity, and the lowest rates are found in girls whose fathers were present throughout their childhood.

4. Foster care children are more likely than their peers to become pregnant as teenagers. With double the rate of teenage pregnancy.

5. Teenage pregnancy is also attributed to a breakdown of communication between parents and child and also to inadequate parental supervision

In addition

6. Low educational, training and occupational expectations have been pinpointed as risk factors.

7. Teens exposed to the most sexual content on TV are twice as likely as teens watching less of this material to become pregnant before they reach age 20.

It’s also worth noting that it’s adults who contribute most often to the other half of the teenage mother equation.

About two-thirds of births to teenage girls in the United States are fathered by adult men age 20 or older. The Guttmacher Institute reports that over 40% of mothers aged 15–17 had sexual partners three to five years older and almost one in five had partners six or more years older. A 1990 study of births to California teens reported that the younger the mother, the greater the age gap with her male partner. In the UK 72% of jointly registered births to women under the age of 20, the father is over the age of 20, with almost 1 in 4 being over 25

Meanwhile UK studies show there is little evidence to support the common belief that teenage mothers become pregnant to get benefits, welfare, and council housing. Most knew little about housing or financial aid before they got pregnant and what they thought they knew often turned out to be wrong.

The outcomes of teenage pregnancy can vary. Teenage girls who are pregnant or who are mothers are more likely to commit suicide than girls who aren’t pregnant or mothers. The belief that lives are blighted is pervasive. When I was a pregnant teenager the ‘that’s it her life is ruined’ refrain was sung over and over again by judgemental relatives and friends disappeared, none of them recognising issues 1 to 6 above might have been linked to early mothering. My life wasn’t ruined, like Paula Bennett I achieved educationally and this is not unusual. Just as some women from deprived backgrounds do well, women from deprived backgrounds who were also teenage mothers do just as well, or poorly, as others. It isn’t babies that blight young lives “Comparing teenage mothers with other girls with similarly deprived social-economic profiles, bad school experiences and low educational aspirations, the difference in their respective life chances was negligible”.

A study in 2001 found that women who gave birth during their teens completed secondary-level schooling 10–12% as often as those who didn’t, and pursued post-secondary education 14–29% as often as women who waited until age 30 to have children. Teenage parents with family and community support, good social services and good childcare are more likely to continue their education and have improved job prospects. (Credit where credit is due for Paula Bennett belatedly recognising the importance of childcare subsidies and educational assistance).

Teenage mothers may not be the burden on society that they are commonly portrayed as, teenage motherhood may actually make economic sense for young women with less money, some research suggests. For instance, long-term studies by Duke economist V. Joseph Hotz and colleagues, published in 2005, found that by age 35, former teen mothers had earned more in income, paid more in taxes, were substantially less likely to live in poverty and collected less in public assistance than similarly poor women who waited until their 20s to have babies.

My belief, and I’m not alone in this, is that babies unexpectedly give some young women a purpose in life; an an understanding of unconditional love and someone to strive for, in fact turning around lives blighted by the failure of adults – family and authority – to provide that. Deal with relative deprivation and family dysfunction and maybe, just maybe, the teenage parenting statistics for boys and girls might improve.


56 comments on “Teenage dreams”

  1. just saying 1

    Thankyou for this informative and compassionate post.

  2. Bunji 2

    Deal with relative deprivation

    Teen pregnancy does have a huge correlation with inequality, as shown by The Spirit Level for the problems inequality causes.
    As you say, it is related to more general societal problems – not to be fixed in isolation with a few pills…

    But a fantastic post (any attribution for me to aim my praise at?)

  3. Kotahi Tane Huna 3

    Great article, further emphasising just how far removed from reality this government’s policies are. It’s especially telling that far from being a burden teen mums in fact contribute more than most.

  4. vto 4

    In my opinion young mothers are fantastic.

    Society’s current view down the nose at them is ignorant and out of step with natural reality and pretty much all of manwomankind’s reality and history.

    It’s just victorian. I can’t wait for the attitudes to swing heavily back to their normal resting position on this issue i.e. that young motherhood is superior.

    Why do people consider young mums to be inferior, all else being equal?

  5. Olwyn 5

    This lovely, insightful piece of writing is very timely. It serves as a reminder to those of us on the left not to buy in, on any level, to the present mythologising of the vulnerable, including young single mothers, as shiftless, dumb and generally unworthy. It is a dangerous and damaging conceptualisation, and we need to reject the very framing rather than try to present arguments that allow it tacit acceptance.

  6. KJT 6

    Great article.

    I am sure those who do not want to support other peoples children will be the first to have their hands out, to be supported by them, when they are elderly.

    Why, with all the problems Government has, is attacking young mothers a priority?

    As the number of under 20 mothers on the DPB is 2 to 3% of the total on the DPB, and the teenage pregnancy rate has been decreasing, I think there are more urgent problems. 9% under 24. Most actually had a partner at conception. It does take two! Usually older. Where is their responsibility?

    If the RWNJ’s think teenage girls “breeding for the DPB” is such a problem why don’t we use the proven fix, giving them better options.

    It is well proven that the easiest and most effective way to reduce pregnancy rates is to increase the income, education and power of young women.

    I suspect a few more dollars spent on general remedial education programs in primary school, alone, will do more to decrease teen pregnancy rates than any contraceptive program or right wing meanness.

    The sad thing is that most of the people condemning young mums, at one stage, were irresponsible teenage boys themselves.
    Sometimes I wonder if it is jealousy. “How come all these teenagers are getting it on when I was too much of a dipstick for the girls to look at me, in my teens”.

    • Carol 6.1

      If the RWNJ’s think teenage girls “breeding for the DPB” is such a problem why don’t we use the proven fix, giving them better options.
      It is well proven that the easiest and most effective way to reduce pregnancy rates is to increase the income, education and power of young women.

      Exactly!  Treat the causes not the symptoms, and above all, provide the kind of support and opportunities lacking to many from low income families.

  7. Fermionic Interference 7

    Thanks for the well written article.

    My 2 cents worth.
    Thanks to the info provided here we have the opportunity to discuss how to set a course for action that may actually assist those who find themselves in the situation of becoming a teen mother, and their families.

    Surely action that will have a positive effect on the lives of young families is more important than false politiking and dog whistles to garner support.

    • locus 7.1

      I totally agree. It’s amazing that health policies like this targeting beneficiaries are thrown up in the air without any structured approach, research, planning and risk assessment. The real issue is to identify strategies that change the societal circumstances underling the causes rather than leading with tactics like free contraception.

  8. ianmac 8

    A great article Guest Post! What a great change to have valid information to view. I do hope it gets a wider audience. I’ll try Bryce Edwards.
    Have emailed him Done

  9. Vicky32 9

    It’s also worth noting that it’s adults who contribute most often to the other half of the teenage mother equation.

    Absolutely right! I am reminded of the youngest teen mother I ever met, in 1972, when I was one myself… she was 11 years old, and we were both at Bethany. I was horrified to see her happily leaving with her baby, and the baby’s father, who was a man in his 30s! It made me wonder what her parents were like, to allow her to see and be with this man, and over the years, I have wondered what happened to her. (She named her baby for a pop song that was current at the time, I remember the baby’s name, but not hers.)
    My reason for getting pregnant at 17? “Find me somebody to love” basically! I had had the education and the (relatively) stable background – which appeared to be, but really wasn’t. To top it off, this was of course, before the DPB!

    • RedLogix 9.1

      I was horrified to see her happily leaving with her baby, and the baby’s father, who was a man in his 30s!

      That’s pretty much a recent Western cultural thing. Many other parts of the world are quite accepting, indeed encouraging of that sort of gap. (Well yes 11yrs old was way too young but that’s a different part of the story…)

      And my own grandfather was 28 yrs older than my grandmother…

      • Vicky32 9.1.1

        (Well yes 11yrs old was way too young but that’s a different part of the story…)

        It’s not so much the age gap, but the fact that she was 11. I heard that when she was in labour, she hadn’t had the faintest idea what was going to happen to her!
        My grandfather remarried a few years before he died after decades of widowed life, to a woman born the same year as his daughter, my mother. We never knew our step-grandmother, because my mother called her ‘the young trollop’, which I thought was hilarious, when I found out that the “young trollop” was in her 50s when my mother was berating her… 😀

      • Descendant Of Smith 9.1.2

        The gap thing is interesting.

        In many cultures where the gap thing is evident there is a strong history of resource impoverishment.

        Island countries with limited land space and water, desert communities with again limiter water.

        There is a (strong I think) school of thought that it was a useful cultural development to keep population growth down.

        Older men are less fertile and therefore less children are produced.

      • RedLogix 9.1.3

        Interesting DoS… yes I can see that mechanism working. I guess my point is that there is nothing inherent about people mating within their own age cohort.

        And while we do have our own norms around them, frankly sexuality is one aspect of our Western culture I have little faith in.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          I’ve a long held (by myself) view that sex norms expressed by the ruling class (who often have been religious in a historical sense) are simply another form of abuse of power on the working class.

          It’s one rule for them and one rule for the workers.

          Workers are expected to be nuclear and monogamous and are sluts and whores and sleeping around when they are not.

          The ruling class on the other hand have dalliances and mistresses ( ever heard of a freezing worker having a mistress as versus the local businessman?) and sow wild oats.

          You can see those gay lads and lasses in any women’s magazine, different partner every different six months, trading in their spouses for a new younger model, and so on.

          It’s not that that doesn’t happen in the working community but one is frowned upon the other seen as a rite of passage, a measure of success.

          In those condom stats referred to the other day how many of those surveyed do you think were from Huntly vs those from Epsom. I take bets it’s more likely that survey reflects the sexual behavior of well off urbanites rather than the poor living in gang communities. Someone however tries to use it to beat up on poor impoverished sole parents.

          Language is power and is often used in a powerful way to suppress.

          I’ve always felt that when examining sexuality two sets of questions should be asked. The first is whether you do or would partake in a particular sexual activity (oral sex, wife swapping, attracted to nuns in habits or whatever you like ) and the second even if you don’t is it OK for others.

          I think such an approach would find that NZer’s are quite liberal in their views and quite generous in their acceptance of what others may get up to – even if they do not partake in that activity themselves.

          It might go some way to removing some of the stigma many people feel about their sexual behavior and help extinguish the tides of conservatism that others are trying to oppose – often from a hypocritical position.

          I truly wonder too what goes on in some of those most vocal conservative peoples heads. The outburst a couple of years ago over children changing in public at the Auckland swimming pool was a classic example. Where they see random stranger pedophiles on every corner the vast vast majority of us see two children getting changed by the side of the pool.

          Their mentality also completely ignores the evidence that people are most likely to be abused by someone they know.

          Case in point:


          • Olwyn

            “Workers are expected to be nuclear and monogamous and are sluts and whores and sleeping around when they are not.

            The ruling class on the other hand have dalliances and mistresses ( ever heard of a freezing worker having a mistress as versus the local businessman?) and sow wild oats.”

            The modern version of this sort of thing can be seen in media contexualisation: the drinking, drugging and rooting around of elites and so-called celebrities are presented to us as the high life. The working class/poor version of exactly the same thing is presented as the low life, with lots of hand wringing and “something must be done about it” expressions. It’s OK to be decadent, so long as it involves designer shoes, and veuve-clicquot rather than Lion Red.

  10. Huginn 10

    Fantastic post – thanks!

    ‘Teenage parents with family and community support, good social services and good childcare are more likely to continue their education and have improved job prospects.’

    and later on, when they are in their 30’s and 40’s, they’re well placed to get a clear run at building careers in the most productive years.

    • rosy 10.1

      Agree – as long as the employer gives former teen parents a fair go… negative stereotyping and all that. Actually there are plenty of employers that a really good, just a few that make things difficult in my experience.

      As for education, I reckon more of this He Huarahi Tamariki would provide better outcomes than the proposed welfare reforms.

      • Psycho Milt 10.1.1

        Do I hear “Both?”

        • rosy

          You’d hear a ‘both’ if the proposed welfare reforms included free long term contraception for all people who cannot afford it, it is and provided after a person has discussed options and had advice from a health professional. Ostracising people by targeting a contraception and providing it through social welfare is counter-productive, imo.

          Take an example of an abused and broken girl having a child young and finding that experience gives a positive emotional experience that she has not managed to get elsewhere – not an unusual situation in the group of people you’re commenting about. Reinforcing her negative emotional experiences through coercion and being single-out for special attention is not going to make one jot of difference to her likelihood of having another child.

          Providing her with education, support (an example of positive emotion outside of her child) and space to explore ideas about her future has a far greater contraceptive effect. Free access to contraception then becomes a positive step in reinforcing a different future for her and her child.

          • Psycho Milt

            So, yeah, both then. Not targeting taxpayer-funded stuff at the most at-risk groups is wasteful extravagance, and the fact previous govts have occasionally indulged themselves in that wasteful extravagance (eg, National Superannuation) doesn’t make it a worthwhile general principle. In the case of offering free long-term contraception there’s no coercion involved, no suggestion health professionals won’t be involved and no more singling-out than there would be with targeting education and other support, so it’s all good.

            • rosy

              In the case of offering free long-term contraception there’s no coercion involved, no suggestion health professionals won’t be involved and no more singling-out than there would be with targeting education and other support, so it’s all good.

              I’ll be waiting to see how this plays out before making definitive statements like that. With the track record of this government and the history of this policy development I remain to be convinced that it’ll work out the way you suggest.

              And I disagree that there is not more singling out than other education and support – all young people are legally required to be in education or training, yeah? Unlike all poor people having access to free long-term contraception. This school provides a more accessible and relevant education than others.

              If this debate changes at least that aspect of the policy I’ll be happier about it (the sanctions on not obeying is for another day).

              If education and support was sufficient then a targeted contraception policy would not be in the political frame at all, you do see that, don’t you?

  11. I’ll be waiting to see how this plays out before making definitive statements like that.

    Apparently you won’t, given that I was simply responding to a comment you made anticipating coercion and the lack of health-professional involvement. If it does turn out to be coercive, we have a Bill of Rights; if no health professionals are involved the media will be dipping Paula Bennett in shit faster than you can snap your fingers; etc. Really, the onus is on the people claiming it will involve coercion and WINZ staff offering contraceptive advice to substantiate those claims.

    As for no singling out via education and support – WTF? I got onto this thread to endorse your comment promoting a school specifically targeted at teenage single parents. Like I said – both. Target expensive services at the user group most at risk, because it’s extravagant to do otherwise, whether it’s education or contraception.

    • rosy 11.1

      I’m not trying to be contrary, I’m sorry if it comes across like that. We’re talking about teenagers here.
      One of the risk factors of becoming a teenage parent is being the child of a sole parent, yes. But other risks, no less important are being poor, deprived, low educational achievement, coming from an home where domestic violence is rife (and that’s a double whammy, given that’s an important reason for single parents in the first place) – and being in a relationship with an older man.

      Teenagers in these situations have trust issues, and being teenagers authority issues too. Being singled out for contraception from social welfare will not be as effective as through creating a supportive educational environment, in my opinion, from what I’ve read, and in my experience. Education for teenage parents is expensive and works better as an option in the educational process. So that’s very cool, imo.

      The money the government is talking about for increasing the availability of free contraception is cheap in terms of policy options – a million dollar according to reports – but unaffordable for poor women, or women with all those other risk factors in becoming a teen parent. Cost to government is not a reason for targeting it to one at risk group when there are other equally a risk groups out there (and other people who really, really would like to have it but can’t afford it). And I really do believe if it teens are directed, or coerced into this it will be counter-productive.

      And Surely it’s best to get issues of human rights, doctor involvement and coercion sorted before the policy is in place?

      • Psycho Milt 11.1.1

        Cost to govt is a reason for targeting it at the most at-risk group if you’re not going to get the money to target everyone who might need it. The question of which is the most at-risk group is something I’m not qualified to answer, but those who are have identified the group this policy’s targeted at.

        Re sorting out issues of human rights, doctor involvement and coercion, there is no human rights issue and so far coercion’s a paranoid fantasy of Sue Bradford’s. The only one that does need sorting out is the doctor involvement and we don’t have information on that yet. They aren’t significant arguments against the policy, just potential risks that may need to be dealt with if they eventuate.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          Cost is not the reason – political choice is the reason.

          Any more than cost was the reason for Labour to increase NZS by $20-00 per week but not benefits.

          If cost was the reason then it would have been cheaper to do the benefits and leave NZS at the already higher rate that it was.

          Cost is just a euphemism for political choice.

    • weka 11.2

      Coercion is likely to happen at the WINZ level. We already know that some WINZ staff implement all sorts of policy in coercive and prejudicial ways. It’s reasonable to assume it will happen with this policy too.
      We also know that the most vulnerable WINZ clients are those most likely to do badly within the system, and least likely to get their needs met. I’d say many pregnant teenage girls fit in the category of most vulnerable.

  12. Jenny 12

    The whole concept of offering free contraceptive to Sole mothers and their daughters is insulting.

    They more immoral than the rest of us, is the hidden message.

    The whole thing reeks of hysteria, of small minded bigotry and hatred.

    Being a sole parent and raising children alone on a fixed income is no easy choice. I am sure that women in this situation would welcome one less expense. But so would a lot of other low income women. Why not offer contraception free to all people who need it.

    I suspect that those at the top of society who live off the rest of us would be to nervous of a population crash, depriving them of a fresh generation of wage slaves.

    The whole purpose of this campaign which targets sole mothers is to create the necessary political atmosphere where more vicious attacks and cutbacks on sole mothers and their children will become acceptable.

    If I was a solo mother today, I would feel that a great big bulls eye had just been painted on my back.

  13. Why not offer contraception free to all people who need it.

    You’d think I’d get sick of answering this one, but people don’t seem to get sick of asking it, so:

    1. For the same reason we don’t offer free food, free clothes, free houses, free furniture, free domestic appliances, free cars, free overseas vacations, free etc to all people who need it – the stuff isn’t free, and govt’s have an income to live within same as everybody else.
    2. When you’re short of cash (hint: that’s us), it’s most cost-effective to target expensive policies at the groups most in need of them. In this case, we’ve got a shitload of statistics saying it’s a bad idea to be born to a sole parent on a benefit, so directing money towards avoiding that makes a lot more sense than chucking it anyone of fertile years.

    • Descendant Of Smith 13.1

      I’m assuming then you are against the non-cost effective roads national are building, Jenny Shipley being paid to provide unknown advice to CERA, $800,000 being paid to bail out Wanganui Collegiate, $500,000 paid to hold a golf tournament, the growth in the security detail for the PM, the new Prime Ministers Awards cash prizes, the payments to Parents Inc for white middle class parenting programs, the embedding of post-PM perks in legislation, …….

      • Psycho Milt 13.1.1

        Yes, very much so. But I notice you’re very much in favour of cost-effectiveness in those things but positively outraged by it when it comes to something that pushes your prejudice buttons. Why is that?

        • McFlock

          The hint is in the label on the button.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          Again you confuse the ends with the means.

          I’ve clearly stated free contraception is fine – linking it to the benefit system and continually giving context around breeding for a business and punitive welfare reforms is not.

          There’s also a wealth of difference between standing up for those that are most disadvantaged and being critical of those who are the least disadvantaged doing this to them.

          I also don’t think I’ve noticed you railing against any of the things above. I’d look forward to seeing your posts on such issues in the future.

          • Psycho Milt

            I haven’t come across blogs full of supposedly-intelligent liberals channelling irrational, prejudice-based outrage about those other things, so am less likely to comment on them.

            • Descendant Of Smith

              But you’ve come across blogs of supposedly intelligent neo-liberal conservative bloggers channeling

              irrational, prejudice-based outrage against sole-parents and young women and unions and workers for instance.

              I don’t see your posts defending those people and your comments on that.

              In no way do I think silence means acquiescence but I don’t often see those that attack some of the more leftist views expressed here and portraying a “you are irrational I’m sensible” line showing any sort of criticism of those prejudiced views.

              And those prejudiced views have much more power as they are projected by those who have the power and influence to project those views on the less powerful – hence they should be challenged.

              It’s not often the poor, the sick, the disabled have power.

              • 1. “I’m outraged that the govt is offering some people free contraception” isn’t a leftist view.

                2. If you don’t read blogs I comment on it’s hardly my problem, but you presumably mean comments like these?

                • McFlock

                  “I’m outraged that the govt is offering some people free contraception” isn’t a leftist view.

                  Beg to differ – it could be.
                  The problematic word is “some”. Who are this “some”? Why them? Why are they more or less worthy for the free contraception? Why now? Is it an end, a means to an end, or a conscious step towards compulsion?
                  Of course, all of those questions have been already answered for you, but you’re still harping on with shallow interpretations of the issue and blinkered definitions of what you regard as “leftist”.

    • weka 13.2

      I agree, I don’t think we can afford to offer free contraception to everyone. But what we should do instead is offer it to everyone with a Community Services Card. That way the whole thing can be managed via the health system (GPs and/or Family Planning) instead of Welfare. That removes the negatives associated with targeting teenage girls, and it means we don’t have to use more resources setting up additional management systems when we already have perfectly good ones in place in Health. Not to mention not further stressing and already overburdened and dysfunctional welfare system.
      It also makes more sense to target the policy to low income women. How many women on the dole or low incomes end up on the DPB when relationships end? Why wouldn’t you offer free contraception to them now instead of waiting until they’re single? The current targeting of this policy just doesn’t make sense.

    • Jenny 13.3

      So Psycho, why are they offering it to sole mothers and their daughters?

      If you were honest you would have to admit that they are being vilified in the public mind for some future attack.

      • Psycho Milt 13.3.1

        Point 2, comment 13. And “if I were honest” (gee, thanks) I’d be a lot less polite about the paranoid fantasies and irrationalism being peddled on this subject.

    • locus 13.4

      psycho – I’m incredibly grateful that I live in a country where charitable people provide free food and free clothes to those who need them, and where we have a welfare system which contributes to housing and living costs for those who would otherwise be on the street. This is a civilised way to live and I don’t think of it as being ‘cost-effective’. It’s a spurious argument to group “free cars, free overseas vacations etc to all people who need it” and suggest that the reason these are not funded is the same.

      As you’re so fond of evaluating everything the government does in terms of targeting cost-effectiveness, would you support the government paying for sterilisation of people on benefit? No of course not, because like most people I imagine that you have some idea of what’s wrong and what’s right.

      Many of the comments on this thread have given good reasons why this kind of shotgun policy targeted at mothers on the benefit (and at their teenage daughters), and advised by a non-health professional, is not right. Cost-effectiveness is not a good argument.

      You argue that it makes a lot more sense to direct money towards a sole parent on a benefit than to chuck it at anyone of fertile years, misses the point entirely, which is that in the form proposed, it’s the wrong thing to do in both cases. It has not been shown that targeting contraception to this group would be more effective than targeting it towards any other at risk group.

      Because of the lack of evidence that this policy will be effective, it is illogical to argue that it will be ‘cost effective’. And even if you could show that expenditure on one of two important things was more cost-effective, it is not logical to infer that it makes the more ‘cost-effective’ option any wiser or better.

      • Psycho Milt 13.4.1

        I’m incredibly grateful that I live in a country where charitable people provide free food and free clothes to those who need them, and where we have a welfare system which contributes to housing and living costs for those who would otherwise be on the street.

        Me too.

        This is a civilised way to live and I don’t think of it as being ‘cost-effective’. It’s a spurious argument to group “free cars, free overseas vacations etc to all people who need it” and suggest that the reason these are not funded is the same.

        You don’t consider cost-effectiveness because that’s a luxury you have, courtesy of not being responsible for spending the country’s money. In liberal-speak, you have “unaccountability privilege.” The people accountable for the nation’s finances don’t have that luxury/privilege. And the reason cars and vacations are not funded actually is exactly the same – the funding obligations of the state and its means of doing so are limited and therefore rationed/targeted.

        Because of the lack of evidence that this policy will be effective, it is illogical to argue that it will be ‘cost effective’.

        It’s a bit much to demand evidence of a policy’s effectiveness before it’s implemented. The evidence we do have is that the risk factors for suffering poverty, violent abuse, educational underachievement etc are highest for kids born to young sole parents on a benefit. In terms of what policies that evidence suggests would be useful, one of the things it suggests is that targeting that high-risk group for free contraception may result in fewer children born into that high-risk category, so that’s one of the approaches being taken. Rosy’s making the case that offering contraception is unlikely to achieve that, and I’m making the case that it’s at least worth a shot.

        • rosy

          Pschyo Milt
          Rosy’s making the case that offering contraception is unlikely to achieve that
          from the post:

          Will free contraception prevent some teenage pregnancies? Undoubtedly, more than 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended.

          You’re so fixated on what you think other people say, you’ve missed what they actually did say.

          • Psycho Milt

            Sorry, yes I do realise it’s the targeting you’re dubious about, not the free contraception in and of itself. Sometimes I write this stuff too quickly.

  14. fatty 14

    Maybe young women are getting pregnant on purpose cause the only other option is going on and off the dole on shitty short term contracts, at shitty jobs, with shitty bosses, with no hope of progressing in either pay or job satisfaction.
    Why all the talk about accidental pregnancy as if these girls are incompetent idiots who don’t know how to take a pill or put on a condom. What’s the other option for these girls…sweet F-all.
    Do we expect them to hold down a McJob which will do nothing but eat away at their self-esteem? Having a baby at a young age does not mean a ‘loss of youth’, if their youth was going to be serving french fries to drunken ruggar meat heads for $13.50 an hour, not being able to afford to heat their house, not being able to afford to eat healthy food, hardly able to afford rent etc.
    Are we honestly suggesting their lives would be better if they didn’t get pregnant?…cause that’s bollocks.
    They have access to contraceptives, they are not idiots, they have been given a choice…get pregnant, or look forward to working your ass off for a shitty existence.

    • locus 14.1

      Fatty, I can understand your sympathy for the circumstances of girls who have all the cards stacked against them, but your suggestion that “Maybe young women are getting pregnant on purpose” is only at best 20% valid.
      – rosy made the point that more than 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended.
      Accidental pregnancy may be caused by all sorts of reasons, e.g. pushy guys who don’t want to wear a condom; sex in the heat of the moment; girls who can’t afford the pill or who are too young or scared to get a prescription; rape; girls who forget to take the pill; guys who forget to buy a condom; etc. etc.
      Your assertion that teenage mothers “have been given a choice” and have decided to “get pregnant”shows that you haven’t really understood rosy’s post.

      • fatty 14.1.1

        “Your assertion that teenage mothers “have been given a choice” and have decided to “get pregnant”shows that you haven’t really understood rosy’s post.”

        No, I do understand the post, but I don’t agree with all of it, and when you separate the last 2 paragraphs from the rest you will see that there exists contrasting explanations in Rosy’s post (I consider the contradiction to be useful and a sign of a good post…I roll my eyes when a post claims there is one truth – there is not just one or two reasons for teenage pregnancy). My post just gives my perspective and agrees with the last two paragraphs. I am actually agreeing with Rosy’s post, the part she claims is her personal opinion.

        “– rosy made the point that more than 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended.”

        Yeah, I take that with a grain of salt. I know that’s what they say, but do we really believe that to be true? Technology exists so that reliable long term contraceptives can be used by all girls, whether they are poor or rich…so why is it that poor girls are getting pregnant more often than the rich ones? If they really honestly, deep down, with all their heart do not want to get pregnant then they probably won’t. My guess is that those 80% of teen pregnancies that are ‘unintended’, are actually not as unintended as we think. Seriously, who of those teens are going to admit that they chose not to take contraception? The way our society demonises teen mothers, hates on DPB users, stigmatises solo mums etc are all reasons why it becomes much easier to claim they forgot to take a pill or put a condom on.

        I prefer Rosy’s reasoning in her last paragraph, where she cites the past as a reason for ‘unintended’ pregnancy…but I just went the other way and suggested that teens have nothing to look forward to in our society. The best form of economic security for a teen girl with no education is to get pregnant, and to minimise to the resulting stigma is they will claim it was unintended…that is why I do not believe that 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended, it must be lower. ‘Official statistics’ will not convince me either, because I see their research as inherently flawed and invalid. That kind of quantitative research fails to acknowledge the complexity of the issue. Epistemologically, its perspective is from a white, 1960s male where the nuclear family is seen as the ideal.

        Under the current structure of NZ society, I have no problem with single mothers getting pregnant, I just see it as a logical response, not a problem. If, as I already said, we paid young women a liveable wage and included them in society, then there would be no NEED to get pregnant, that is the real problem. We should also increase the DPB to ensure no children are in poverty…we just have to increase the tax on the poverty producers, otherwise we end up with idiocracy.

        • rosy

          Thanks for your comment fatty, I understand what your saying about the difference between the two parts of the post. The positions taken are not mutually exclusive. The first lists the contextual factors of teenage parents. The running theme imo is disempowerment and emotional insecurity and that directly leads to my own opinion – the second part of the post – that one outcome of being a teenage parent is actually a more purpose-filled, emotionally satisfying life.

          I agree that this can also mean that teenage parenting (actually mothering, because teen dads are not often around*) can mean the dumping of McJobs for mothering.

          I disagree that dumping McJobs for mothering is an active decision. Disempowerment and emotional insecurity can lead to people just drifting rather than taking active decisions. Stuff happens, and for disempowered girls this is what happens. There’s more support for this pov from people working in the field than the view that girls actively make a logical decision to get out of jobs by getting pregnant (aka breeding for business in John Key’s vocabulary).

          I guess that also summarises my objections about teen girls being told to take long-term contraception – rather than being supported (e.g. education, training and parenting) – it does nothing for empowerment and active decision-making. My guess these girls will still just drift into an even more untenable situation with less money, rather than not have a or another child.

          * often through no fault of their own – I’m not talking about emotionally secure men here, just damaged boys (see the point in the post that boys from abusive/abused backgrounds are also more likely to become teen fathers).

  15. Hateatea 15

    A very well written and thought provoking post but, yet again, all the focus is on the women with no mention of targeting the men who don’t / won’t use condoms ( a sensible STD precaution as well  as contraception).  As the song says ‘it takes two’.
    When politicians include measures that target all, not just women on the DPB, UB etc but ALL males, including those on National super, then I might just consider that it isn’t just the ‘business as usual’ anti women beneficiary bashing that is so attractive a target when a diversion is required.
    As I said on  an earlier occasion, I was in my early 40’s  and a student when I needed to be on the DPB. I had been in the paid workforce since I was 13, full time from when I was 15 a year’s parental leave so  hardly a sponger. I left a verbally,  physically, emotionally abusive relationship and made my child my priority. If someone had suggested contraception to me at a WINZ office, I would have told them where to  put it in the best vernacular at my disposal. Having another child was not in my plans, nor was another relationship but if I chose either of those options, I would  have talked to my GP, not my case officer. health, contraception etc are not part of WINZ’s core business!
    It saddens me that so much of the dialogue around benefits is punitive and full of (inaccurate) stereotypes rather than focused on finding each individual the best solution for them, their family and the wider community.
    What a long way we still have to go as a country

  16. Tom 16

    A lot of the government’s thinking seems driven by advisers around Obama such as Harvard economists David Cutler and Jeffrey Liebman, and Austan Goolsbee – a Skull & Bones alum.

    A few links from Liebman may be relevant ..





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