Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 57-69

First online:

Finding a Way to Offer Something More: Reframing Teen Pregnancy Prevention

  • Gretchen SissonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Boston College Email author 

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Advocacy organizations have consistently framed adolescent pregnancy as profoundly and enduringly detrimental for young women, their families, and their communities, despite equivocal evidence about the causal relationship between young maternal age and poor outcomes. Without this attribution, logic mandates that such organizations find more evidence-based justifications for teen pregnancy prevention that still address the lived experiences of populations most at risk for early parenthood. If such evidence-based justifications continue to be lacking, it is unlikely that these well-intentioned efforts will truly have a beneficial impact on the communities with which they are concerned. This paper presents such justifications, including recognition of the challenges inherent in parenting and protection of adolescence as a developmental stage, the need to make pregnancy prevention more accessible for those who chose it, and overall investment in adolescent sexual health. From this new paradigm, sexual health advocates can build a class-conscious model of sexual health that recognizes the necessity of providing more options for at-risk youth, the appeal of models of conjoint agency, and the necessity of comprehensive health resources and sexuality education. By adopting a new framework for teen pregnancy prevention, the promise of prevention within a social justice movement can begin to be discussed.


Adolescents Social justice Public health policy Pregnancy prevention Sexuality education Adolescent health