Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1997

Abstract

Teen pregnancy has become an issue that educators and public policy makers are obliged to treat as a serious problem. Too often, explanations of teen pregnancy have included uncritical use of the notion of adolescents at risk. Recently, however, attention has been given to structurally-determined contextual factors in explaining teen pregnancy. Such contextual factors include economic and educational opportunities and costs, as well as chances for valued participation in socially and culturally stable communities. This interest in contextual factors parallels a development in the literature on high school dropouts. A data set previously employed to study variability in drop-out rates among school districts in the Appalachian state of West Virginia was used. Results show that teen pregnancy can be explained in much the same way as dropping out. Explanation in terms of contextual factors helps to avoid the victim-blaming accounts sometimes associated with the notion of teenagers at risk. It also suggests that conventional pregnancy prevention programs may be constrained by these same contextual factors in ways that are not typically appreciated.