Teen Pregnancy Pact: What Were They Thinking?

Posted June 23, 2008 by

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Last week, the story of 17 teen-age girls in Gloucester, Massachusetts who agreed to a “pregnancy pact” made international headlines. Whether the pact is truth or fiction (some are now saying no such promise was ever made) the fact remains that seventeen teen-agers who are all 16 years of age or less are about to become parents, and that these young girls saw pregnancy as the only answer to the question of what they were going to do with the rest of their lives.

According to the original story in Time, from October onward girls at Gloucester High School were going into the school nurse’s office asking for pregnancy tests, and seemed dejected if the tests proved to be negative. Some of the girls were reported to “high five” each other when they found out they were pregnant. In the same article, Amanda Ireland, a graduate of the high school who herself had a baby her freshman year, said that many girls approached her in the halls to tell her how lucky she was to have a baby. “They’re so excited to have someone to love them unconditionally. I try to explain that it’s hard to feel loved when an infant is screaming at 3 a.m.”

Mostly this story just makes me sad. These kids seem to have jumped into parenthood at such a young age because they didn’t realize that they had other options in life. Having a child is a wonderful thing, but being a parent isn’t like the glamorized version of it you see in the media. When you’re actually changing diapers, staying home every night, or up every hour with a sick baby, it’s a far cry from the motherhood you see portrayed in tabloid magazines by Jamie Lynn and Britney Spears, Nicole Richie and the rest. Don’t get me wrong, no one knows exactly what the Gloucester teens were thinking when they decided to become mothers, but I believe the media greatly influences the way adolescents see parenthood—all fun and romance and baby bumps.

Whatever their reasoning, one thing is certain: the lives of these teens in Gloucester are about to change dramatically.

About

Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Roxane (Edit) Report

    Toni, I agree with you. I now have a teen that is 17 and pregnant. We did not allow her to date, but she kept pushing the dating issue. I decided to allow it at 16, but what happened was not what I expected. She started to “date” a young man who was the same age in her school. They began to have a serious relationship. For all intensive purposes they were acting “married”. He came over more and more regularly and eventually she did nothing else but be with him. It was not healthy for a young junior in high school. At first I thought it was OK to have a “friendship” which is how it started. I regret that I allowed this to happen. I know that I could have stepped in. It gave my daughter permission to be in a serious relationship and get her expectations (unrealistic) to be in love with a teen boy and want to have a family with him. This kind of thinking is fine if she was married already, but not if she is “faking” marriage, yet the sex is real. There is no commitment, no financial support, no family support, etc. So my advice is Do NOT allow your teenager to have a serious monogamous relationship with another teen. Dating is ok if not serious. Get them involved in sports, activities, so they are busy and having fun doing other things besides having sex.

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  2. toni vitanza (Edit) Report

    I want to add something…after reading the minister’s comments. It sounds to me like he is a good, caring parent and I don’t want to take anything away from that. But I’m a middle-school parent/teacher and I have a couple of observations I’d like to hear discussed. One of my observations is that we as parents too often encourage (subtly or overtly) our teens to date exclusively and at increasingly younger ages. A lot of folks just think it’s “cute” or they give in to their kids’ requests (demands? threats?) to allow it because it’s too hard to vet every boy/girl their child sees and just easier to welcome one steady person into family events, etc. But this is a total mistake. “Dating” at ANY age, but esp. for teens, should be “dating AROUND.”It’s no wonder this girl nursed a “broken heart” for a year (her junior year in high school! good grief!) after being allowed (or even encouraged in oh-so-many ways) to see this one boy exclusively for A YEAR AND A HALF. The time she spent seeing him in “supervised” ways should have been spent in extracurricular activities (in GROUPS of boys and girls) and not with this one special boy. I can understand that his parents want him to be a “player” if that means that they want him to date around and not one single girl. My gosh, he’s what, 16? I was substituting in a computer research class for 8th graders this spring and they were researching the impact of the original “Star Wars” movie (1977). These kids know me well and so I told them a story about how, when the movie came out, I was 16 and saw it three times in one weekend because I had accepted dates with three different boys for Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. Of course, all three boys were dying to see the big hit movie and of course, I sat through it all three times for their sakes, since I really didn’t care, not wanting to rub it in that I was dating others but with that fact UNDERSTOOD by all the boys involved and the other girls they might have been dating as well. I told the story to illustrate how BIG the movie was, but the teachable moment was not about that at all. It was about what DATING is. What I was doing that weekend was not being promiscuous or trashy or untrue or unfair. IT’S called DATING. And my 8th graders were totally shocked at this. But what’s so shocking? That teens don’t tie themselves to each other in some kind of weird adolescent commitment scenario? Why do we encourage this? Why do we welcome our adolescent’s “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” to every family event? I’ve seen formal family portraits with the “boyfriends” of the teen daughters included. It’s boundary-breaking, big-time! It teaches our kids (esp. our daughters) that you HAVE to have a PARTNER. You don’t! It doesn’t create an environment that says, “You have a long life, a lot of education ahead of you, a lot of dating, before you find the person you want to date steadily and only maybe eventually marry. Even then, marriage isn’t for everyone. Take your time. There’s no rush to commit.” Esp. not at 15 or 16!!!

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  3. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Dear CJ, Thanks for sharing your story. I love what you said about “Keeping the door ajar” when it comes to our kids. It’s so true, isn’t it? Sometimes, no matter what kind of home your provide for your kids, they will still go their own way. What I believe you did so well was to leave the light on so your daughter could find her way back.

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  4. Zac (Edit) Report

    They were thinking do what the schools teach. They were taught how to do math, so do math, they were taught how to write, so they blog and text, they were taught how to read, so they read blogs, they were taught how to speak and be social so they interact with each other, they were taught how to have sex and babies so they have sex and babies…..yet we are shocked.

    PS The media said there wasn’t any evidance of a “blood” pact, not plain pact or verbal pact….

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  5. Zac (Edit) Report

    To Danille, From the description of lashing out and all, it sounds just like our adopted daughter and sons, we are rethinking her behavior is from Reactive Attachment Disorder and is lashing out to push everyone away from her for various reasons. One trust, they can’t trust anyone to raise them, so they push everyone away so they are raising themselves, ours don’t like to be parented to and will say no to everything they are told to do. Two, Weak bond, due to lack of trust, makes it hard for them to bond to others, so the longer they are in a relationship, the more they withdraw and push everyone away.

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  6. CJ (Edit) Report

    I am a minister of 37 years. My wife and I reared our children with very conservative values. Lines of communication were always open, we took time for the kids,and whenever one of them showed interest in something we supported it. About 8th grade we began to see dramatic changes in our daughter. She became rebellious and began to sneak around and develop friends that didn’t have our values. She was counseling girls then who thought they had become pregnant. My wife and I decided the best thing to do was to go after her heart. My wife devoted herself to football games, choir, etc. etc. We vacationed, we talked, we loved. As a sophmore my daughter became interested in the #1 jock on campus and he, her. We agreed to let them have supervised visits. What we found was that the values we had were nothing like the other parents, “good church goers”. They wanted their son to be a player. After a year and a half of dating he moved on and for a year she nursed a broken heart. Next Enters, Mr. GQ same age. He had been wanting to date her since 9th grade. This time she gets pregnant in the middle of her senior year. We were torn up but asked her what she wanted to do with no preasure to get married at all and certainly no abortion. She and Mr GQ said they wanted to marry. I performed the ceremony and blessed them with 15 other ministers. We received the unborn baby publicly with blessing and thanksgiving. The baby was born 6 months later with a birth defect. He was hopitalized for months having to have 6 surgeries. In the fourth month of the precious childs life the dad began to sleep with my daughters best friend and my niece. Once again we were torn apart. Divorce followed no support from the dad. My daughter went into the workforce for the first time, enter Mr. Biker dude. Tough guy, “he’s nice to me dad”, he becomes her protector at work. She gets pregnant again. She marries Mr Biker has a beautiful daughter. Drugs and women destroy the fragile marriage. My daughter is beaten and the little girl is abducted by her drug crazed dad 13 days before Christmas. We recover her from crack house on Jan 2. All of this is to say I love my daughter. She did wrong. She didn’t keep the values she was taught. Today she is a hard working, loving mom, and we have two beautiful grandbabies. Remember, Love never fails and whatever you are going through you will get through it. Contend for right but remember some decisions we just have to deal with and live with. My wife and I have a wonderful relationship with our regretful daughter. So, what I’m saying to you is though we have to make a stand for right, don’t close the door to tight on your kid. Leave it ajar. Time will pass and who knows things might turn out pretty good in the end if we parents keep our hearts right.

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  7. Norma Rekar (Edit) Report

    In our school District some of the kids wanted to start a class on abstinance for sex until grown or married. You would have thougt is was a class on murder for hire. It was said by some supposidly sane people that kids were going to have sex regardless and it was better to teach them about safe sex and to give out and tell them how to use condoms, with a teacher demonstrating this with fruits or vegatables with the right shape, rather than tell they were on the right track for a happier life. Go figure.

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  8. toni vitanza (Edit) Report

    First of all, before I make my comments, I want to say that I’m the mom of a shy but handsome 14-year-old boy who recently finished 8th grade. On the last day of school a girl (who is known as a good student and a “nice” girl) wrote in his yearbook: “Dear XXX, have a great summer. BTW, YYY loves your penis. Love, ZZZ.” I’m no prude; I’ve gone to grad school, worked as a reporter and have been a full-time substitute teacher for 20 years. I’m a card-carrying liberal Democrat. But we need to teach our daughters to be dignified young ladies. That said, here’s my comment about the “pact” that I have not seen addressed or mentioned in the media; that in itself is odd indeed. When I moved to S Carolina 3 yrs ago I noticed that every year at my son’s school (a combination demographic of professor’s kids and rural kids w a solid mix of black, white and Asian although few Hispanics) there was at least one (usually more) girls in the 7th grade (that’s right, 7th) who were obviously pregnant and planning to keep their babies. I asked the school resource officer (law enforcement) if this didn’t indicate statutory rape; she said not if the father is the same age. She and the school nurse had been responsible for telling the parents about their daughters’ condition. I asked how the parents reacted. Both these ladies (cop and nurse) told me that the soon-to-be grandparents were ecstatic. It seems that both families had older children who were aging out of the social security/welfare/food stamps/disability system and the new baby would keep that check coming and for 18 years. The folks were totally upfront about this. BTW for those of you who might think I’m being racist here, I’m white and these were white families. I’m no racist; like I said, I’m a liberal but I call myself a “tough love” liberal and I’m very much into personal responsibility. So I’m wondering if these 17 girls are being raised on a govt. check and if they intend to raise their babies on one. They weren’t girls planning on which sorority to pledge at college and too bad, I guess, but we need people to do the kinds of jobs that don’t call for an education, if we’re going to clamp down on illegal immigration! What we don’t need is an intentional non-working class raising kids on very little and perpetuating that lifestyle. Some changes in the system would discourage this sort of thing. How ’bout, you get one baby on the dole, after that, none. How ’bout, if you’re young enough to still be on the dole yourself, you don’t qualify? That would encourage some supervision by parents who are, after all, not busy working. Half the babies in our state are born on Medicaid. And we’re worried about gay marriage?

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  9. Suzanne (Edit) Report

    this is for Vicki,
    WE sent my daughter to Turn About Ranch in Utah, In fact Iam on my way to pick her up as she graduates from the 100 day program. I did some research and felt we had to do something drastic to get her attention. She was flunking school, defiant and surrounding herself with the wrong influences. At our arrival it was much worse then I expected. Very rustic and basic. For the cost I guess I was expecting more of a dude ranch setting. Her initial session with her therapist resulted in him telling me she would be very difficult to transform. Over the weeks she slowly responded to their strict but consequencial program. Their methods cause the teens to evaluate and go within themselves to take a serious look at where the choices they make can take their life. Her letters began improving and at mid-term visit she was the beautiful wonderful daughter I had once had. I could not believe the difference. She now is goal oriented and is proud of her accomplishments and choices. She is anxious to do great in school. She is thankful to me for sending her. She is appreciative and respectful of adults and authority figures, as she understands now we are all guideing her in a positive direction for her. She has learn hard work pays off and that fun is a result, and not the only thing in life. Iam confident that she will continue to use the skills she learned at the ranch to stay on tract and have a great life. I wish all parents could send their teens there. The cost was very expensive but the results saved my daughter a life of misery, and that is priceless.

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  10. Vicki (Edit) Report

    I appalude all parents who like myself have weathered the storm in attempting to raise a rebellious teenager who for the most part is desperately seeking to become an adult/parent long before maturing. My daughter continuously runs away associating with older boys/girls who directs her in pathways inwhich we have tried out best to deter her from. Is there any help for the parents who want the best for their children, and are willing to do whatever it takes to redirect our children into reaching positive achievements.

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  11. Penny (Edit) Report

    I agree that the Pact made me extremely sad. One reason is because my daughter, who is 22 today, is 11 weeks pregnant and unmarried. She didn’t get pregnant on purpose but she is pretty scared nonetheless. She’s a waitress and her boyfriend, who is only 20, is a minimum wage roofer who lives 2 hours away. Now she is going to move there and they are going to try to start a life as a family. She is suddenly having to “grow up”, although so far I don’t see much of that. She is trying to make the right decisions, and at the same time the young, immature side comes out. There is so much she is not ready for yet must prepare to be ready for within the next 7 months. I do hope that these very young teenage girls have families to help them and are willing to accept that help. I also hope that if they choose to keep their children rather than allowing someone to adopt them, they will love them unconditionally and grow to be the best mothers that they can be.

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  12. Shirah Penn M.Ed. (Edit) Report

    I think it is imperative that teens be given courses in Middle School and High School that deal with creating responsible lives. It is at this time of their lives that they need to face these issues.Jack Canfield has a book out called Success Principles for Teens. That would be a great starting place because the number 1 principle is Take Responsiblity for your life!!

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  13. Danielle (Edit) Report

    My now 17-year-old step-daughter became pregnant last spring, at the age of 16. For two years before becoming pregnant, she lashed out at the parents in her life, step or biological. She lied compulsively, manipulated at every turn, was aggressive, then turned violent with both biological parents. She was forced to leave our home (bio-father and step-mother) because of her violent rages and the effects it was having on her siblings. She always wanted to be treated as an adult and everything she has done since getting pregnant indicates that the pregnancy itself was a proclamation of independence and “I’m an adult because I’m having my own kid…” Unfortunately, she’s learning now that she is still a child, and that having a baby doesn’t make you an adult. In many ways, it makes her MORE dependent on the family around her. This is especially hard for her because she has burned so many bridges by her recently past behavior. Teen pregnancy isn’t always about lack of options for the future. Sadly it is sometimes about simply making a statement and rebelling against those that love you.

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