Can Teenage Pregnancy Prevent Academic and Professional Progress in Nigeria?

Adolescence is one of the most rapid phases of human development. Although, the order of many of the changes appears to be universal, their timing and the speed of the change vary among and even individuals. Both the characteristics of an individual and external factors influence these changes (WHO, 2018). According to Wikipedia definition, adolescent stage represents a transition from childhood to physical and psychological maturing that generally occurs during the period of puberty to legal adulthood. The end of adolescence varies by country; however, each country has to take full cognisance of this sensitive phase of development. According to World Health Organisation (WHO, 1997), teenagers fall between the ages of 10-19 years. Surveys by researchers such as Briggs (2001), Onuzulike (2003) and more revealed that teenagers become sexually active at an early age with equivalent high fertility.

Teenage pregnancy has become a global challenge to contend with, it occurs in high, middle and low-income countries. From the first world countries such as the United States to the third world countries, this delinquent has been a source of concern for policy makers, social workers, and other human service providers due to its negative aftermaths on the girl-child (Grunseit, 2007). The malady carries greater risks of adverse consequences as much as for young mothers as for the child.

According to WHO (2018), over the years the global teenage birth rates have reduced from 65 births per 1000 women in 1990 to 47 births per 100 women in 2015. However, because of the increase in global population of adolescence, forecasts indicate that the number of adolescence pregnancies will increase globally by 2030 with African countries making the pace for other continents to follow. Africa countries have the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world. Teenage birth rates range from a high of 115 births per 1000 women in West Africa to 64 births per 1000 women in Latin America and the Caribbean to 45 births per 1000 women in South-Western Asia to a low of 7 births per 1000 women in Eastern Asia (UNFPA, 2018).

In 2017, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) reported that in Nigeria, almost 31 percent of recorded childbirths occurred to teenagers before the age of 18. The state of affairs is worse in the rural areas where 38.2 percent teenage births were recorded, even with poor statistical computation in the region as a result of data paucity. It is more disheartening to note that the northern region in Nigeria has the highest prevalence of early childbearing.

Source: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2017); compilation by author

Teenage pregnancies are predominant in countries driven by poverty, lack of employment opportunities and education. According to Molosiwa and Moswela (2012), school girls’ pregnancy is an international crisis that affects the social economic welfare of countries, societies, and families at large because it is one, if not the leading cause of school dropout for female students.

Education is recognised globally as a basic human right. Article 26 of Human Rights Charter (HRC) asserts that everyone has the right to education and that it should be free at least in the elementary and fundamental stage of schooling (HRC, 1984). Also, Educational Economists have a common belief that educational development would lead to accelerated economic growth, more wealth and income distribution, greater equality of opportunity, availability of skilled human power, a decline in population growth, long life, better health outcomes, low crimes rates, national unity, and political stability (Schultz, 2002). However, Teenage motherhood in developing countries continues to constrain girls and young women from participating in education (Eloudou-Enyegue; 2004).

The ancient belief that a girl-child is not worthy to be formally trained is going into extinction in Nigeria and Africa, however, with the alarming rate of teen births in the continent, educational attainment has been slim. Teenage birth is disruptive to the educational process of girls and as a result, many teenage mothers drop out of school and never return while some that return have poor grades. Educated girls are less likely to become pregnant because education translates to high self-esteem and good standards or principles of lifestyle (UNFPA, 2013). According to the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS) in 2017, 52.5% of adolescents that gave birth before age 18 in Nigeria has no form of education, 13.1% are secondary school holders while only 3.0% have attained higher education. So, from the reports it is glaring that well-educated girl-child rarely get pregnant.

This study is carried out to investigate if teenage pregnancy can prevent academic and professional progress. The study is divided into sections; section 2 contains the factors that necessitate teenage pregnancy, section 3 entails the challenges of teenage pregnancies in Nigeria. Section 4 entails review of literature, section 5 includes research method, section 6 is results and discussion and lastly, section 7 entails the conclusions and recommendations.

Factors That Leads to Teenage Pregnancy

According to United Nations International Children Emergency Funds (UNICEF, 2018) in developing countries, over one in four women (27 percent) aged 20-24 years have had a live birth before age 18. Similar proportions are observed in Sub-Saharan Africa, this represents about 12 million women in less developed countries who delivered during their adolescence age. Recently, African countries have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the Universe. In most of the affected countries, the major causes of subsequent teenage pregnancies are teenage marriages, burdens of malnutrition, famine, war and pestilence which are rampant across several countries that make the top list of this malady (World atlas, 2017).

It is now a known fact that birth rates among women with low education are higher than those with secondary or tertiary education. In many societies, girls are often under intense pressure to marry and bear children early and this may be due to the fact that they have limited educational and employment prospects (Beutel, 2000). To reaffirm the importance of education, Brosh and Evans (2007) asserted that education is a major protective factor against early pregnancy, as more years of schooling would imply delayed marriage and reduced teenage pregnancies.

Source: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2017); compilation by author

Also, some parents are not free to thoroughly discuss sex with their children, they feel they are too little to learn about their sexuality. Most parents in developing countries find it hard to communicate with the children about their sexuality and most often times limit their knowledge about their body as an excretive system. Okafor (1997) revealed ignorance of sexual knowledge as one of the factors responsible for pregnancies among teenagers. He added that adolescents in secondary schools have low knowledge regarding sex and sexuality. More so, Nwosu (2005) observed that adolescents face many risks ranging from unwanted pregnancies, HIV and AIDs, other STIs, sexual exploitation, yet they receive inadequate information to help them navigate this difficult passage to adulthood. Nwosu asserts that teens need access to specific information about how their bodies work and how to keep their bodies safe as well as information about sexual behaviour and its consequences. She maintained that information about sexuality should be imparted to teenagers in order to help them avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Countries where sexual violence is rampant will surely see an incessant rise in the rate of teen births. Sexual violence is one of the root causes of teenage pregnancy in the world and in most developing countries. Maynard (1997) believes that teenage pregnancy is a delinquent behaviour resulting from stress, dislike, malice, boredom, and unhappiness experienced by a teenage girl within her home environment. More factors like drugs, peer pressure, upbringing, media, internet and the likes can be allocated to the causes of teenage pregnancy in the Nigeria, developing countries and the World at large.

Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy

According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA, 2013) teenage pregnancies have irreparable consequences. It violates the rights of girls with life threatening consequences in terms of sexual and reproductive health and as well poses high development costs for countries particularly in perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Teenage pregnancy also affects girls’ education and income potential as many are forced to drop out of school which ultimately threatens future opportunities and economic prospects.

McCauley-Brown (2005) asserts that those teenage mothers who experience difficulties at school have less motivation to stay in school. Chilisa (2002) stated that a pregnant school girl meets with one of the three outcomes; expulsion from school, re-entry and continuation. Each of the three options faced by the pregnant teenager has both principled and practical difficulties. The expulsion policy violates the human rights of the girls-child and robs the country of a possible resource. However, the robbery of possible resource is not of concern to countries like Uganda and Tanzania that already placed a legal ban from school on teenage mothers. A major consequence of these increase sexual activities among teenagers is out of wedlock pregnancies that may result in abortion, childbirth or even death.

It is suggested that school dropout is a distinctively prognostic of teenage pregnancy and a precursor, rather than a consequence of becoming pregnant (Bonell et al. 2004). Perhaps, difficulties with school are accounted in three inter-linked ways; first, a strong dislike of school that leads to truancy, dropping out or formal exclusion (Hosie, 2007); second, lack of educational attainment (Hoberaft and Kieman, 1999); and third, low aspiration and expectations of the education system as being relevant for their future employment (Luker, 1996).

Girls who become pregnant at age 14 or below are more likely to experience premature delivery, low infant birth weight, perinatal mortality and other severe health challenges in new-borns (WHO, 2011). In 2011 Demographic and Health Survey, 15 to 23 percent of female youths or teenage girls between 15 and 23 have had an abortion greatly increasing the risk of disability and death for pregnant adolescents.

Also, teenage parents with little or no family support are likely to face a future of poverty and hardship with their children (Price & Hyde, 2009). An earlier research carried out by Bigerlow, & Danielsen (2004), stated that many children of teenage mothers develop into troubled young adults, prone to negative behaviours such as dropping out of school, drug addiction, depression, or antisocial behaviours. This implies teenage pregnancy can lead to more crime rates if not put to check.

Review of Literature

In most cases, teenage pregnancy affects the educational attainment of teenagers, however, Grant & Hallman (2006) found out that there is no simple cause-and-effect link between teenage pregnancy and underachievement. Although, they agreed it is often the case that pregnancy negatively affects the educational performance of teenagers. For example, teenage pregnancy often leads to the loss of time to learn, stating it happens in three ways. Firstly, the pregnant teenagers take time off school to attend antenatal clinics (Grant & Hallman, 2006). Secondly, pregnancy in teenagers is associated with significant health, emotional and social difficulties which either force students to miss school or affect their ability to concentrate and learn (Grant & Hallman, 2006; Klein, 2005; Miller, 2001). Lastly, once the baby is born, the teenage mother needs to spend time parenting the baby (Grant & Hallman, 2006).

Klein (2005) asserts that young mothers often have poor parenting skills, so, they tend to take much longer than older mothers to learn how to respond appropriately to the baby’s needs. Consequently, they lose time to focus on their educational activities, which in turn leads to academic underachievement and failure. Cater and Spear (2002) and Klein (2005) state that teenage mothers often do not receive enough support from their partners who in many cases are adult men. There is a strong relationship between teenage pregnancy and academic failure in that teenage pregnancy affects educational achievement of teenagers themselves as well as that of their children (Spear & Cater, 2002, p. 66).

Smith-Battle (2007) showed that teenage mothers usually re-evaluate their focus and educational attainment goal once they are pregnant despite their earlier attitudes towards school. According to Kirchengast (2009) children born to teenage mothers have low cognitive and educational ability which affects their performance in school. Kaufman (2000) asserts that both pregnancy and parenting are the leading reason girls give for dropping out of school. Also, teenage mothers are less likely than their peers to participate in tertiary education and get professional jobs (Mangiaterra et al., 2008).

Contrary to these studies, Breheny & Stephens (2007) argues that motherhood is a challenge requiring support and community involvement regardless of the mother’s age and socio-economic position and further propose that different social structure could be used to support motherhood occurring at any point in the life course, so that motherhood could be successfully combined with education and employment in any order. Also, according to Pearton (1999), adolescents are mostly too young and emotionally immature when they first fall pregnant, therefore, if these young girls are to succeed academically it is important to provide adequate support.

It appears like, it is not the pregnancy that is the main bone of contention, but the way the pregnancy is received by the teenager and the parents or guardians, and the supports they get. According to Ferguson & Woodward (2000), if teenage mothers continue with their schooling after delivery and they receive enough support, they can manage to complete their secondary education and enrol for tertiary qualifications. Grant and Hallman (2006) also found that the academic success of the teenage mothers depends on the availability of a care-giver at home.

More so, Grant and Hallman (2006) found that it is other factors such as poverty and academic motivation before pregnancy that determines teenage mothers’ academic performance after they have delivered their baby. Potjo (2012) concluded that if teenage mothers have enough resources and skills to balance between parenting and schooling, they are as likely to succeed as those who are not pregnant. However, Panday et al. (2009) carried out a survey and found that girls who have experienced a teenage pregnancy are allowed to remain in school and to return to school after they have delivered their baby, only about a third of teenage mothers actually return to school.

In strengthen the arguments on supports, Undiyaundeye (2012) found out that a pregnant girl faces the trauma of parents and peer’s confrontation. Some parents become livid and fail to give support for the preservation of the girl and the unborn baby. From peers and other people, they most times fault the girl and her family of being negligence and disgraceful. A teenage mother faces multiple traumas: loss of respect from friends and associates, rejection by parents and sometimes rejection by the man or boy responsible for the pregnancy.

In Nigeria, there has not been much research carried out concerning how teenage pregnancy prevents the academic and professional progress of the teenage. However, there have been numerous researches done to explicitly investigate the causes, consequences, effects, and the preventive measures of teenage pregnancy (Undiyaundeye et al., 2012, 2015; Alabi et al., 2017; Nnodim et al., 2016).

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Can Teenage Pregnancy Prevent Academic and Professional Progress in Nigeria?. (2019, Apr 05). Retrieved September 19, 2021 , from
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