Teenage Pregnancy Research Proposal Paper

In 1997 the age-specific pregnancy rate for women 15-19 years of age was 33/1,000 for non-Maori and 94/1,000 for Maori (Dickson et al. Among developed countries, only the United States records a higher statistic.The specific incidence of teenage pregnancy is not necessarily influenced by changes in the sexual activity of young people, but there is an obvious relationship between sexual activity and pregnancy, and there is much to be said for an integrated approach in this field.It is plain that numbers need narratives to explain them and it should equally be plain that unless the various magnitudes of a matter under investigation are known an explanatory narrative will be that much less valuable.

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Reliable studies indicate that the age of first sexual intercourse in New Zealand is decreasing and that the proportion of sexually active young people at school is increasing (Silva and Stanton 1996, Dickson et al. It is safe to conclude that at least a third of New Zealand teenagers are sexually experienced before they are 16, the minimum school-leaving age, and that well over half are engaged in sexual activity while at school (Fenwicke and Purdie 2000).

It is appropriate that medical research should focus on matters of social and individual health.

The "at risk" concept is so deeply embedded in the professional discourse of policy makers that to subject it to critique is not without risks of its own.

Statistical models provide the standard form of analysis and explanation for the purposes of policy making and state management and a kind of shorthand has emerged in which behaviour is typically explained by "risk factors". As an explanation of a social practice, to say that those who adopt it do so because they are the kind of people who probably will do so, does not explain why recognisable forms of social practice have emerged, or why particular individuals (rather than others with similar "risk" characteristics) should adopt them, or why their proportion might be 10% or 20% rather than some other figure.

The challenge for sociologists with a responsibility to assist in these state tasks is to construct a realist framework within which the complex processes that generate social inequalities of various kinds can be modelled.

An approach able to transcend the dichotomies that plague social research - qualitative versus quantitative, positivist versus hermeneutic, and theoretical versus applied - can be achieved.

This paper argues the case for New Zealand research into teenage pregnancy - and the sexual activity of young people in general - in its full social and cultural context.

Three conceptual barriers to this project are identified and discussed: (i) "at risk" positivism; (ii) "true effect" reductionism; and (iii) the concept of culture.

The long-term costs of teenage pregnancy to the state, in terms of sole-parent family benefits expenditure is substantial (Goodger 1998).

These are acknowledged as the principal reasons for the recent determination to tackle teenage pregnancy in the United Kingdom, where the Cabinet has launched a multi-pronged campaign to address what is perceived there to be a serious problem (Social Exclusion Unit 1999:4).


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