Saturday, February 17, 2007

Teenage Pregnancy.

Apparently the teenage birth rate is climbing year by year. This is very unfortunate as it deepens the countries social and economic problems, and I think it would be fair to say that many of these mothers come from what John Key would describe as the underclass of society.

It is all very well for welfare commentators like Lindsay Mitchell to blithely criticise the 'financial incentives' of giving birth but what's the alternative? What would be the consequences of say, removing all 'financial incentives'? It is conceivable that the birth rates will go down, but what of the children that are born? For a girl in poverty to give birth to a child and receive no welfare, is to put the innocent child into great danger of malnutrition or worse. The poverty that they will grow up in will be horrendous.
So what of any other alternatives? Will removing them from their mother and placing them into care or foster homes be better? Removing them will put huge emotional strain on the mother and will have deep psychological impacts on the child. Even one lucky enough to be placed with just one great foster family will end up undertaking the journey to discovery as to where they actually came from. Others will move between foster homes, becoming unwilling to make emotional attachments knowing how easy there are to break. There is nothing more important to a child than the love of its parents, and especially its mother.
What about forcing pregnant teenagers to have abortions? Apart from this being unethical state intervention the psychological effect of the abortion on the mother-to-be will be immense. A while ago I read a study (and I'm sorry I can't remember what it was but you'll just have to take my word for it) that suggested the psychological effects of abortion are far worse than those of going through with an unwanted pregnancy. Never mind the fact that having an abortion makes you more likely to become unfertile. As I was first made aware of by the character Rachel in the magnificent TV series Cold Feet, who was told she couldn't have a child with Adam because of her abortion with her ex-husband.
There certainly are a lot of girls or young women out there who have children in order to avoid going out to work, and because it guarantees them extra welfare money. This is fundamentally wrong but it is preferable to the child dying of starvation. The child must grow up in an environment where there is enough money to put food on the table. Often though, welfare money is abused, squandered on cigarettes or booze. This is why I think a voucher system could be explored. Vouchers which require that they are used for certain items such as food. Or money automatically being spent towards rent. I know things like this are subject to abuse, but it's possibly worth a try and can be a help towards those with the right intentions who just end up making stupid decisions.
Many of these women also have children (as Lindsay Mitchell alludes to) because they have an unstable family, because their father has fled and they feel unloved, because they have an uneasy relationship with their mother...because they want to feel the unconditional love of a baby. And it is statistically proven that it is much more likely for these problems to arise in lower socio-economic households. It's sad for the mothers, it's sad that they resort to this, and it's sad for the children involved. This is why it's so important to have policy which promotes family, which encourages a stable environment, which help children not be hungry, which helps Mum and Dad stay together. This is why it's good that John Key addresses the issue of the so-called underclass. It's vital that the vulnerable members of society have an improved situation. This is not done by simply throwing money around in the form of extra benefits as the left wing might have you believe. This is about ideas of tough love, of safer communities, of encouraging individual responsibility rather than a patronising nanny state attitude. I'm not quite sure how to tackle these issues exactly, but I'm sure John Key's ideas will have far more credence than those of the likes of Helen Clark!
Welfare and teenage pregnancy are huge issues in this country. It's very difficult to know where to start in solving these problems. But we need innovation. And we can't just ignore the problem. People: make some suggestions, help me out here!

1 comment:

Sam said...

Fussy I can only hope that your spawn looks nothing like you however am awares that your family values will be what really matters!
Teenage pregnancy I think is a reflection of our current societies poor youth environment.
Every child should have equal oppurtunity. Dis advantaging some children in an attemp to reduce teenage pregnancy is just another scrare tactic that induces greater anguish against youth.
Reducing benifts is not the answer but neither is increasing them installing family values and parenting skills into youths is preventing the problem costructivly.