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Teenage Pregnancy as It Shapes Lives

by Robert Coles

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-04082-8
Publisher: Norton

 An intermittently arresting, consistently disconcerting portrait of teen parents and expectant parents in America today. Harvard child psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prizewinning author Coles (The Moral Intelligence of Children, 1997, etc.), along with his three adult sons, spent several years interviewing dozens of teen parents of different races and classes in cities and small towns. Despite the divergence among the interviewees, a number of patterns emerge, among them the distrust between females and males. This is most apparent and unsettling among young blacks. The girls view the males as worthless beyond their powers to create a baby, and the males sense that the girls exploit them solely for this purpose. As one young man tells Coles, ``The girls you're going out with, they don't really respect you, they just don't. Why? They have something in mind for themselves, that's what: to get themselves pregnant, it's all they want from us, the juice . . . when it's over they want you . . . out of their lives.'' Another common link among most of the interviewees is their lack of success in school. Most of these young parents hated the time they spent there and look forward to having a ``legitimate'' excuse to end their schooling. Parenting a baby gives these teens a raison d'àtre; they sincerely love having something they can call their own. While none of these parents wants children for the sake of securing welfare, welfare is clearly an indispensable part of their lives. When Coles asks one young mother if welfare reform can break the cycle of poverty and dependence, she considers the difficulties of finding work and child care and says, ``You take welfare from us, we got nothing.'' A disturbing if inconclusive study, memorable for the voices of these young people. (80 b&w photos, not seen)