One segment of the single parent population that I have not highlighted before are teenage single parents. They have unique needs and challenges when they become parents, and in the majority of cases are totally unprepared for parenting on their own.
The rate of teenage pregnancies has fallen over the past ten years, but according to Campaign For Our Children, Inc. over 330,000 girls between the ages of 15-19 have become pregnant this year. Of those teens, over 165,000 have become parents so far this year. Planned Parenthood reports that:
The U.S. teenage birth rate is the highest in the developed world: two and a half times as high as Australia’s, more than two and a half times as high as Canada’s, more than three times as high as Germany’s, nearly five times as high as France’s, seven times as high as Japan’s, and seven and a half times as high as the Netherlands’ (United Nations, 2005).
Teen parents have additional roadblocks such as trying to finish high school, lack of job skills, lower income, and lack of transportation. All of these issues and more can really hinder a teen parent’s ability to effectively parent her child.
In many cases, tragically, when parents find out that their teen daughter is pregnant, they make her leave the home. This can be very detrimental to a child when she is probably at the most vulnerable point of her life. In many states if parents refuse to let their pregnant/new parent teen live in their home they may have to pay child support for both the teen and her child.
Teen single parents are at an economic disadvantage in the fact that if the father of the child is under the age of 18 he may only be required to pay a small amount, such as $50 per month, in child support until he graduates from high school or finds full time employment.
Single parenting is difficult without having the additional disadvantage of being a young adult. I know there are exceptions to that statement for both single teen mothers and single teen fathers.
Perhaps us more seasoned single parents could take a new teen parent under our wing to help make the transition and parenting experience a little bit smoother by sharing our experience and strength.