Moral Panic Over Teenage Pregnancy

The following sample essay on Teen Prgnancy discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.

Background, context and history of moral panic and teenage pregnancy. Teenagers have been seen as the cause of the problem and the victims for numerous moral panics including rave culture, mods and rockers and in more recent year’s hoodies and a number of violent related ‘problems’ such as knife and gun crime.

My focus is on the long running issue of teenage pregnancy and how in today’s society the teen mother is seen as a folk devil and a stereotypical character. Jock Young first coined the term, ‘moral panic’ whilst talking bout the social reaction of drug takers in Notting Hill. Stanley Cohen then explored the concept further.

Moral panic has been defined as the “intensity of feeling expressed by a large number of people about a specific group of people who appear to threaten the social order at a given time.

” (1972, Pg 9) Cohen Also stated that a moral panic has begun when “a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests. “(972, Pg 9) Those who start a panic do so when they fear a threat to prevailing social or cultural values, are known by researchers as “moral entrepreneurs”, while the people who supposedly threaten the social order are known as a “folk devil”.

Moral Panic Essay

The moral panic of teenage mothers came in to existence in the late 1970’s and peeked in the 1980’s and early 1990’s with the new right and underclass theories of the conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher.

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Thatcher suggested that teenage and single mothers as the problem of the United Kingdom, thus creating mass panic and the demonisation on young and single mothers. Are the representations appropriate proportionate to the issue? Statistics for the national office of statistics reveal that since 1971 teenage pregnancy figures have either stayed roughly the same or have been decreasing slightly until 1999.

There was a slight increase in younger teenagers getting pregnant in the 1990’s. But quite a substantial decrease in the over 16’s becoming parents. AS time went on there was a noticeable increase in the number of abortions for both under 16’s and over 16’s age groups. The media can be held responsible for ‘amplification’ and exaggeration of the issue, which takes place through the media’s work such as news papers and magazines being the most influential to the general public. Head lines and photos evoke the most social reaction, usually one of surprise and disbelief.

This then creates more wide spread panic and concern resulting in a higher level of moral panic. Which serves to appeal to the public so that they concur with ready-made opinions about the course of action to be taken, and these opinions have been found from the members of what Cohen refers to as the ‘moral barricade’, i. e. bishops, politicians and editors. Combined with the opinions of the ‘experts’ who are wheeled out to give their diagnosis, they reach an agreement about how to cope with the situation in hand, and the problem either disappears or at least deteriorates.

In this case it was proposed that there should be more sex education with in schools, and for younger teenagers and older children. Just some of the headlines about teenage pregnancy from ‘The Sun’ ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Daily Mail’. * Under-14 abortions soar 20%  Girls as young as 13 to get contraceptive jabs in a bid to tackle pregnancy ‘hot spots’ Relentless rise in teenage pregnancies Mother’s despair over pregnant teen  The girl of 18 who has had SIX abortions.

These photos have been taken from the internet; the images evoke strong social reaction and concern as all three of the girls featured look very young and are dressed as children. The reason why so many people see teenage pregnancy as a problem is that, society as a whole paints a picture that childhood and its innocents should be protected against violence and sexual behaviour, getting pregnant during a girls teenage years forces them to grow up very quickly and deal with the adult responsibilities of bring up a child, cutting their own childhood short.

What is seen as the cause of the problem? The cause of the problem was first thought to be lack of sex education for teenagers in schools and within the home. Parents felt embarrassed talking to their children about sex and intimate relationships. Although sex education became compulsory in schools the ‘problem’ failed to get better and the figures remained the same. It was not ignorance that led to high numbers of teenage pregnancy; Teenagers know what precautions to take against getting pregnant but chose not to use them.

Another reason is explored but the social exclusion unit, “One reason why the UK has such high teenage pregnancy rates is that there are more young people who see no prospect of a job and fear they will end up on benefits one way or the other. Put simply, they see no reason not to get pregnant. ” (SEU, 1999a, p. 7) Many people blame the media for allowing young people to have access to content seen as explicit and of an adult nature, television shows are constantly making reference to sex despite there having a ‘watershed’ from 9pm until 5.

30 am the next day, Programs still contain enough reference to make children aware of sexual activity. Hudson and Ineichen state that “Movies, music, radio and TV tell them (Teenage girls) that sex is romantic, exciting, titillating; pre – marital sex and cohabitation are visible ways of life among the adults they see and hear about; their own parents or their parents friends are divorced or separated but involved in sexual relationships. Yet at the same time they gat the impression that good girls say no.

Almost nothing they see or hear informs them about contraception or the importance of protecting pregnancy. ” (1991 Pg 18) Magazines have been under scrutiny in most recent years teenage material such as ‘Sugar’ ‘Bliss’ and ‘More’ aimed at young girls between the ages of 12 – 16 were available from any news agents or supermarket. These magazines made casual references to sexual behavior, using quizzes, polls, problem pages and sex and relationship tips.

The content available to teenagers through the use of the internet has become an increased concern for parents, with the development of chat rooms, instant messaging and networking websites they could in theory be told anything by anyone, no matter how unsuitable for their ages as many of the chat rooms remain unmonitored. What has been suggested as a response or remedy?  Education – Has to be given to young teenagers, and older children in the right way, make them aware not just of the biological aspects of sex but the emotional side too.

Social attitude of teenager sexual behaviour – Generally the social views about teenagers having sex, are bad ones, parents on the whole try and stop their children from having sex, which doesn’t work teenagers will be having sex no matter what ‘adults’ say, Concentrating o Lack of embarrassment – is needed from peers and especially parents, so that teenagers can talk openly about sex and their experiences, also lack of embarrassment would encourage young people to go to family planning clinics and buy contraception over the counter.

More contraception easily available – The social exclusion unit states that teenage mothers are 4 xs more likely to live in social housing, and are more likely to be from deprived areas, the government should therefore target these areas with more facilities, first for prevention of teen pregnancy, with family planning clinics and relationships advice.  Careers advice centres – in more deprived areas, to show young girls that there can be more to life than having a baby so young, and that a career maybe rewarding both financially and emotionally.

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Moral Panic Over Teenage Pregnancy. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Moral Panic Over Teenage Pregnancy
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