Repeated teenage pregnancies – The meanings ascribed by teenagers – A comparison between London and two Caribbean islands
This qualitative research seeks to improve our understanding of the relatively under-researched phenomenon of repeat teenage pregnancies, by exploring the underlying factors and meanings that teenagers ascribe to their pregnancies. The study uses a comparative approach to provide a comprehensive psychosocial and economic understanding of the factors leading to repeat teenage pregnancies. This is achieved by exploring both the diverse and similar experiences of two groups of teenagers within different socio-economic environments - one group of 26 respondents from the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Barbados and the other group of 26 respondents from London. The research also capitalises on a unique opportunity to contextualize the welfare dependency/teenage pregnancy discourse. The behaviours, motivations, values and attitudes of young women who become repeatedly pregnant in a Welfare state such as England, are compared with those living in countries with limited state resources and few state benefits. The comparison shows that in the latter case, the lack of state intervention can have the disempowering impact of fostering dependency in many insidious forms. The findings demonstrate the very powerful influence that both intentional and hidden or masked factors can have on a young woman's decision to repeat a pregnancy. The intrinsic relationship between the personal driving forces of the young women and their repeated pregnancies is convincingly highlighted. These driving forces are accompanied by very strong and deep-rooted beliefs in the importance of motherhood and fertility, as well as anti-abortion views. When these factors are added to economic stringency, they provide the fuel for a young woman's journey into repeat pregnancies. The findings therefore caution against a reliance on a mechanistic understanding of both single and repeat teenage pregnancies and emphasise the fact that social, psychological, and emotional processes, as well as the economic influences, are also crucial to our understanding of repeat teenage pregnancies.