A guest blog artcle by Asha Gentry (world citizen, student)
Trends are a part of the way in which young people connect, primarily on the basis of similarity. The latest fashion accessories, hair-dos, clothing lines determine a lot about the interaction between many young people. The newest trend that has probably superceded the baby boom of the 1960s is the rate of teen/young adult pregnancies. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the coolest thing for teens to do was drugs. Now, the coolest thing to do is have a baby.
The televised film “The Pregnancy Pact” may have seemed like just another movie but the truth of the matter is, it affected young people’s perceptions. It made pregnancy a new acceptable social trend. It is something about these advertisements that gets young people thinking (and acting on the impulse to follow the crowd).Television shows like “Teen Mom” publicize and glamorize the trend of young adult parenting. Shows like “College Hill,” that promoted education and drama (at best), are dismissed because of shows that instigate a growing population of irresponsible youth.
Young women are becoming mothers like it is no one’s business (young men, fathers also). And maybe it isn’t but no one considers the friends who don’t have children (who may have never even considered it as early as the late teens/early 20s) who are influenced by this trend. The friends who support and console and help throughout the pregnancies that they secretly envy. This isn’t to say that every young friend is influenced in the same way. That’s not at all what I am saying. The friends of these young parents, though, are now talking about and considering family life and how to raise children. They are discussing plans of how many kids they want to have rather than being coerced to have conversation about career aspirations or adulthood.
The conversations between young men and young women are even different. Now the questions that are asked are “how many kids do you have” or “how many kids do you want?”
The problem is not that young people are having babies. The problem is the rate in which they do. The trend of buying and soliciting the RocaWear and BabyPhat brands do not even compare to the trend of childbearing.
It is no longer a shameful act. Having children out of wedlock as young as fifteen years old is a new goal that young people are aspiring to obtain. Teen/young adult pregnancy is the new lifestyle. Being over 21 with no children and no plans to have children, people give you the most distraught of faces. Waiting until marriage to have children is no longer the ONLY acceptable social course of action. What once went hand in hand–marriage and childbearing–are now like distant and unconnected ideas.
The society we now live in is very different from the society it evolved from. Sociologist C. Wright Mills (1959) would say society was once very strict about out of wedlock childbirth. It was socially degrading for families to have had teenage children who had children out of wedlock. The structure of the new society accepts that young women are having children earlier and earlier in life, so much so that those young women who are pursuing an education are rare. It is somewhat backward from what the previous society thrived on. What was the norm back then is now the odd and the odd is now the norm. Babies are in, education not so much. Not that all young people think about having babies rather than pursuing their education but it is now a huge consideration that young women deal with in a large reality.
These young men who are assisting in this new trend are also affected by the new norm. Rather than being encouraged to have higher goals, they are either fathers, or worse deadbeat fathers.
At one point, well several, I had one of those conversations about future baby plans. It was either “oh yeah, two kids” or “four kids just like my mom.” And now that I am older and now that I see that this new trend is not exactly a fading one, I am more weary of conversations like these. I am more aware of the issue that there is with these young people having babies too early.
The baby is the fascinating part to these young people. They are more concerned with having an actual baby than ensuring the baby is growing up in a suitable environment where they can thrive and learn something other than how to have babies. After all, the next new trend may just be preteens having babies. And then again, children having children isn’t a good idea either way.
Mills, C. Wright. 2000 (1959). The Sociological Imagination: Fortieth Anniversary Edition. Oxford University Press.