A new study by researchers at Yale found that at least 50% of young couples expecting a child actually desired the pregnancy. From a sample of 296 couples in which the female was 14-21, 49% of female participants and 53% of males reported wanting the pregnancy. Furthermore, another 18% of females and 24% of males reported being “unsure” how they felt about impending parenthood, which leaves 33% of females and 23% of males in the position of dealing with an “unwanted” pregnancy.
The researchers refer to the sample group as “adolescents” throughout the article, but it should be noted that while the ages of the female participants goes as low as 14, the mean age was 20 and the upper limit was 21, meaning that most of the participants were in the higher end of that range. Furthermore, while the researchers did not inquire as to the participants’ marital status, the mean length of their relationships was over two years.
Throughout much of human history, marriage and childbearing in the late teens and early twenties was considered to be a normal, healthy occurrence. However, a comment on the article by the Guttmacher Institute indicates a far grimmer outlook: “Indeed, traditional interventions may not help these young women and men avoid or delay wanted pregnancies.” It would seem that it is not enough for these unborn children to be wanted by their parents, they must be wanted by the Guttmacher Institute as well.
The authors of the study note that, “young women who have some desire to become pregnant may be placing themselves at risk not only for pregnancy, but also for STDs, including HIV, by not using barrier contraceptives.” However, the authors do not show any data to indicate that these couples are anything other than monogamous, which begs the question of why they would assume that sex which is open to life must also be otherwise “risky”.
This study reveals a collision of narratives: on the one hand, the young couples willing to embark on a new life as parents, whether eagerly or a bit hesitantly, and on the other hand, those who seem to have forgotten that sex can be intentionally used for procreation and not just for playing Russian Roulette with infectious microbes.