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Teen mom vs. teen mom: sensationalizing teen pregnancy

Haley Moreau

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Teen mom. Whether you first think of the MTV series Teen Mom or of pregnant adolescents in general, it is clear that teen pregnancy is a rising issue in the United States, one that the show has placed front and center.

Teen Mom depicts the lives of four new mothers under the age of eighteen. It’s a supposed uncensored look at the struggles the girls endure as they not only discover themselves as mothers, but how the change affects those around them. Though it may seem realistic, the show never touches base on the social, financial, and academic aspects of being a teenage mother.

So is it all fluff?

Some Catonsville High students, like junior Laura Heffern, are firmly against Teen Mom. “I hate the whole culture of the show,” Heffern said. Sophomore Danielle Famulari is also skeptical, saying that the show makes teen pregnancy “seem easy, [as if] having a baby as a teen will make you famous.”

Freshman Kayla Cameron has a more neutral view of the show, saying that it accurately depicts what it is like to care for a baby.

[Teen pregnancy] is a bad thing because you’re young yourself, you don’t know what a child needs.”

— Danielle Famulari, sophomore

 

As of 2011, according to a writer at WetPaint.com, cast members of Teen Mom were being compensated $3,000-$5,000 per episode, which could make someone wonder if the show is simply an outlet for teen girls to make a few easy dollars. Junior Jeanna Baker doesn’t believe this is true. “They are not getting a whole lot of money,” she said.

Spencer A. Rathus, author of Psychology in the New Millennium, says that teen mothers are more likely to live in poverty, with a lower standard of living and a greater need for public assistance. As a result, the U.S. government spends up to $40 billion dollars a year trying to help teen families, while 80% of teens may receive welfare within their first year of parenthood. (Youthline/Teen Help).

From an academic perspective, teen pregnancy can also pause a teen parent’s education. According to the Teen Help organization, only a third of teen mothers will receive high school diplomas; only half will get a college degree by the age of 30. Not only does teen pregnancy affect the mothers, but their kids as well. Youthline reported that children of underage mothers are likely to repeat grades and have lower test scores than other children.

I don’t have negative feelings towards [teen mothers], but it does make me realize it’s more common than you think.”

— Maddie Tivvis, junior

When students weighed in on the topic, negativity dominated. “[Teen pregnancy] comes from irresponsibility in youth,” said Heffern.

Famulari expressed her belief that parenting is all about planning ahead and doing what’s best for the child. “[Teen pregnancy] is a bad thing because you’re young yourself, you don’t know what a child needs,” she said. Famulari has had first-hand experience with teen pregnancy due to caring for her niece, a child of a teen mother.

Junior Maddie Tivvis saw teen pregnancy in a different light. “I don’t have negative feelings towards [teen mothers], but it does make me realize it’s more common than you think.”

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