Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Politics and International Relations

Reader 1

Dionne Bensonsmith

Reader 2

Mona G. Mehta

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© 2012 Stephanie Jimenez


Over the past few decades, teen pregnancy has been framed as one of society’s most pressing ills. It has been understood as a “crisis” by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and a number of other cultural, religious, and governmental institutions. In this thesis, I analyze three constructions of teen pregnancy: 1) the construction of teen mothers as social “burdens” 2) the construction of teens as “unfit” to be parents 3) the construction of teen mothers as collectively “rational” actors reacting to contexts of structural inequality. While the first and second constructions draw upon the conception of teen pregnancy as a costly, national epidemic often reproduced by the irresponsible and “deviant” behavior of teens, the last construction rejects this discourse, and posits adolescents as “rational” actors that make “rational” decisions given a context of structurally-produced inequality. In that early childbearing may serve as a “collective adaptive” strategy in contexts of poverty, this construction of teen pregnancy has attempted to deconstruct the notion that teens become pregnant due to their “irrationality,” or their inability or unwillingness to recognize the harsh repercussions of early childbearing.4 In that this third construction favors “empowerment” policies that provide women with the “knowledge and means to exercise reproductive freedom,” it does not narrowly promote prevention policy as a single approach to teen pregnancy, and escapes the promotion of punitive approaches that seek to scare and discipline teens into abstaining from non-marital sex.

4 Arline T. Geronimus, “Teenage Childbearing and Social Disadvantage: Unprotected Discourse,” Family Relations (April 1992): 245.