Right now, the US is seeing the highest rate of infants born to single mothers in its entire history. 33% of infants are born to single mothers. The reason for this is because of advances in medical technology. The development of vitamins and other changes in nutrition have changed the average age at which women can become pregnant. 100 years ago, the average age for women to become pregnant was 18 years old, mostly because of poor nutrition. Now that we're more educated and our diets have been altered so that we recieve better nutrition, the average age that a woman can become pregnant is 12 - 13 years old. Here's a link to an article on the subject of early onset of puberty, written by Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D., Executive Director, National Center for Policy Research for Women & Families.
Effects on Society
Because women can become pregnant at such a young age, more infants are born to girls who have not yet been legally married. Their age keeps them from getting married, and so many young girls are having children by themselves. The families of these girls and their children help support the infant, and thus there may sometimes be a strain on the familie's financial resources, especially if the infant's father is unable or unwilling to assist in the raising of his son or daughter. Thus, the child is more likely to grow up in poverty, and more likely to suffer from health problems. There are also higher rates of abuse and neglect amongst these families, they are also more likely to commit crimes, and the child faces a higher chance of failing school and becoming teenage parents themselves. This article focuses on more of the effects of this dilemma on our society.
We have made attempts to find a solution for this problem. Developments in birth control, such as the contraceptive pill and the recently released Plan B, or morning after pill, are examples of our attempts to control the number of unwanted births in the in the United States. Aside from the medical technology introduced as a solution, the topic of sex education is also a subject of much debate. Some schools provide "abstinence-only" education and "virginity pledges" are increasingly popular. Most public schools offer “abstinence-plus” programs that support abstinence but also offer advice about contraception. A team of researchers and educators in California have published a list of "best practices" in the prevention of teen pregnancy, which includes, in addition to the previously mentioned concepts, working to "instill a belief in a successful future", male involvement in the prevention process, and designing interventions that are culturally relevant. Here is the site.
We want nice things! We want there to be less children born into a world where they cannot be properly cared for. We want better education so that we have less teen pregnancies, and those girls who would be otherwise made into mothers too soon could instead understand their bodies, have better control over them, and thus have better control of their lives.