Around the area in which I am blogging, it is common knowledge that this English city where I grew up ‚Äì East Leeds ‚Äì has the highest number of teenage pregnancy cases out of anywhere in Europe. Growing up in an area where one in ten teenage girls were expected to become pregnant by the age of 18, and where 20% of 13 year olds were reportedly sexually active, it seems quite astonishing that nor me nor any of my 10 closest friends became teenage mothers. Contemporary media reports estimated that 47% of 15-17 year old Leeds girls had fallen pregnant in 2010. I only became aware of these figures as a young adult and as a result of my own research but how the media reported these findings has since concerned me. What impact do these reports have on teenage girls who are not sexually active? And why is teenage pregnancy reported as a predominantly negative situation in my area?
The widespread reporting of these striking figures heightens the expectation that young girls from this area of Leeds are ready to have sex and become mothers at a young age. This, for the vast majority of girls is simply untrue. The publication of these statistics does, indirectly, place pressure on those girls who are not ready to engage in sexual activity for the first time. Teenage pregnancy everywhere carries a negative stigma. If you become pregnant young, whether through choice or by accident, you are less likely to lead a prosperous, healthy life ‚Äì so say the media reports and academic research. You are more likely to have poor health and less financial success. But surely there are benefits to becoming pregnant younger, such as generally more straight-forward pregnancies and births, higher energy levels and motherhood can define girls in a positive way ‚Äì some people are just made to be mummies!
Girl Museum Inc.