Journal of Community Health

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 10–18 | Cite as

Black adolescent pregnancy: Prevention and management

  • Linda A. Randolph
  • Melita Gesche


In New York State, today and every day, 180 teenagers become pregnant. However, pregnancy in adolescents is not just a technical or demographic issue. It has cultural and practical dimensions. Nationally, unmarried black teenagers are five times more likely to give birth than white teenagers. In other words, one in every five non-white babies has a teenager for a mother! This has long-term societal consequences incalculable dimensions; and black leaders are increasingly concerned.

It is recognized that sex-role socialization is an important component of personality development. Yet, few researchers have examined the unique situation of black girls in a society which denigrates both the female and the black role. As pluralistic as our society may be, and no matter how relevant cultural and subcultural values may be, it is an incontrovertible fact that, by exceedingly early child-bearing, poor teenagers who are black immeasurably increase their inherent disadvantages to pursue education and acquire marketable skills, not to mention attractive jobs. On the other hand, more women in upper socio-economic categories are characteristically delaying, childbearing, and even marriage, into their thirties.

The immediate and long-range consequences of unplanned teenage pregnancies are many. These include poverty, stress, suboptimal environment, nutritional inadequacy, and frequently, late or no prenatal care. Negative outcomes include low birthweight, prematurity, child abuse and development disability. There are, in addition, many delayed effects. Therefore, physicians and other health professionals must ensure that wanted pregnancies yield a healthy child. Young women and young men must be convinced that early childbearing will foreclose chances of a better socio-economic future for themselves and their progeny.

Finally, Governor Mario Cuomo's Teen Pregnancy Initiative envisions the availability and promotion of alternatives to childbearing, which all too frequently is the only and fastest way to adulthood for poor youngsters. Long-range commitment of the more fortunate members of respective communities, whose obligation it is to stand as achievable role models, such as physicians, other health professionals, and representatives of churches and helping organizations, must work together to fulfill the essentials of the Initiative to bring adolescents to mature and fulfilling adulthood.


Prenatal Care Teen Pregnancy Adolescent Pregnancy Black Girl Black Leader 
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    Bureau of Vital Statistics of New York State, Table 24, 1982.Google Scholar
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    Bureau of Vital Statistics of New York State, Table 7, 1982.Google Scholar
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    Reid, P:Socialization of Black Female Children. Proceedings of Research Conference of National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. November 20–21, 1980.Google Scholar
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    Furstenberg, FF Jr. et al., eds: Teenage Sexuality and Childbearing, Philadelphia: 265, 1981.Google Scholar
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    A Socioeconomic and Demographic Analysis of Teenage Pregnancy, New York State Department of Health Monograph,18: 4, 1981.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda A. Randolph
    • 1
  • Melita Gesche
  1. 1.New York State Department of HealthAlbany

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