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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Teenagers 'choosing motherhood'
Teenage mother with her baby
Teenage girls are choosing to have babies to 'create a family'
Many teenage girls see having a baby as a better option than a low-paid "dead-end" job, research has found.

The study, for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggested girls as young as 13 choose motherhood to be independent and to create "a loving family".

The researchers said their findings show teenagers are not ignorant about contraception, as is often assumed, and actively plan to have a baby.

The UK's teen pregnancy rate, the highest in Western Europe, is falling.

The research, carried out by the Trust for the Study of Adolescence, was based on interviews with 51 young mothers and fathers aged 13-22 living in six deprived areas of England.

Highlighting the fact that not all teenage pregnancies are unplanned will help address support needs currently not being met
Suzanne Cater, Report author

Areas of deprivation and poverty have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the government had made cutting teenage conception rates a priority - but has focused on unplanned, accidental teenage pregnancies and not considered those who 'plan' their pregnancies.

The study found that many of those who became pregnant as teenagers had wanted to compensate for their own bad experiences as childhood.

They said that if they had not become a parent, their life would become worse because of continued family disruption and unhappiness.

In many cases, teenagers understood how contraception worked but did not know that their age group had a high fertility rate.

Information 'key'

Many girls talked about their love for babies. One 18-year-old said: "Everybody said I'd make a good mum. I knew exactly what I was doing when I got pregnant."

Young men often mentioned wanting to provide a "father-figure" for a child - contrary to their experience.

It's vital that teenagers of both sexes are provided with real alternatives to early parenthood
Anne Weyman, Family Planning Association

But they were much more likely to regret their decision later.

Suzanne Cater, who wrote the report, said: "Highlighting the fact that not all teenage pregnancies are unplanned will help address support needs currently not being met.

"Using teenagers who wish they had delayed parenthood could also help inform young people who may have potentially unrealistic expectations of parenthood."

But Gill Frances, chairwoman of the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy - set up to advise the government on its teenage pregnancy strategy - said: "It is important to recognise that most young women, with the right support, make good mums. That is not the issue.

"The issue is that if they had waited a bit longer they would have got settled and become much more independent."

She said it was important to give young people information about sexual heath and contraceptive services.

'An unfortunate study'

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association (fpa) said: "Young women living in poverty have very few choices and chances in life.

"The combined effect of a poor education, periods on benefit, social isolation and few employment opportunities mean that teenage mums experience significant disadvantage compared to those who have children later in life.

"It's vital that teenagers of both sexes are provided with real alternatives to early parenthood."

But Beverley Hughes, minister for children, families and young people said: "This is an unfortunate study which, on the basis of a very small and carefully selected sample, suggests that teenage pregnancy can be a positive option for some young people. We reject that view completely.

"There is overwhelming evidence that, overall, teenage parenthood leads to poorer outcomes both for teenage mothers and their children.

"Our Teenage Pregnancy Strategy focuses on preventing teenage pregnancies and since its introduction conception rates for under-18s have fallen to their lowest level in 20 years."

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