THE EFFECTS OF PREGNANCY ON ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT
BERMAN, HELEN JOYCE
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Sixty sexually active adolescents, ages 19-21, were studied to determine if adolescents who had prior pregnancies would indicate less differentiated levels of development than adolescents who did not experience a prior pregnancy. Forty-eight adolescents who had a prior pregnancy resulting in an abortion or delivery were compared to a control group of twelve sexually active contracepting adolescents who did not have a prior pregnancy. The prior pregnancy groups were divided into (1) current contraceptors and (2) non-effective contraceptors.;An assessment of the following dimensions was conducted: ego development, superego development, defense mechanism structure, sexual identification, intimacy, and independence.;It was hypothesized that (1) adolescents who had prior pregnancies would function at lower levels of development than sexually active adolescents who do not become pregnant, and (2) effective contraceptors with prior pregnancies would indicate more mature functioning than those who continue unprotected sexual activity.;The results indicated that the adolescents with prior pregnancies utilize a more restricted repertoire of defenses than those with no prior pregnancy.;In comparison to adolescents who did not experience a prior pregnancy, adolescent mothers indicated lower levels of educational attainment and financial independence concomitant to a premature move into physical autonomy. Non-contracepting adolescent mothers were characterized by lower prior school attendance and difficulty with the establishment of peer relationships when compared to adolescents with no prior pregnancy.;Currently contracepting adolescents with prior abortions tended not to indicate significant differences in levels of functioning in comparison to those with no prior pregnancy. However, adolescents with prior abortions who continue unprotected sexual activity indicated risks for future autonomy as evidenced by school history and employment status when compared with effective contraceptors.;When there had been a prior pregnancy, regardless of resolution, effective contraceptors held more mature attitudes towards women's roles in comparison to non-contraceptors. No significant differences were observed for perceptions of personal sexual attributes, ego and superego development.;The results underscore the need for expansion of funding for multi-service programs in clinics and schools that provide psychological counselling, birth control services and the opportunity to explore and develop alternatives to conflict resolution through unprotected sexual activity.