Can divorce lead to teen pregnancy?

Tons of studies have been done that shows that divorce and the absence of a father in the home leads to increase criminal behavior in adolescent boys. But what about girls. Can divorce and the absence of a father affect girls too? Not just as far as delinquency and crime but pregnancy rates as well? Some people seem to think so. A study conducted by two economists at the University of Santa Barbara was a pioneering study at the time it was conducted and was based on fairly reliable empirical data. The press release of the study’s outcome was as follows:

Press Release October 11, 1996
University of California, Santa Barbara
Tim Dougherty: (805) 893-8735 | Lillian Kurosaka: (805) 893-4620
Children reared in fatherless homes are more than twice as likely to
become male adolescent delinquents or teen mothers, according to a
significant new study by two economists at the University of
California, Santa Barbara.
Llad Phillips and William S. Comanor based their research on data from
random surveys of 15,000 youths conducted annually by the Center for
Human Resources at Ohio State University. Their findings suggest that
current proposals to provide tax credits and exemptions for single
mothers and to collect more child support from absent fathers will
have little effect on the problem of delinquency among teenage boys.
“Both measures tacitly accept the father’s absence from the home and
seek to ameliorate its consequences by increasing the income available
to mother and child. However, it requires an increase in family income
of approximately $50,000 to counter the father’s absence,” the
economists wrote in a report outlining the results of their study,
which were presented at the Western Economics Association meeting in
San Francisco on July 1.
Phillips and Comanor designed their study to account for the influence
of income, and found that in the case of boys, a minimum of $54,000 in
additional family income is necessary to counter the harmful effects
of absent fathers. For girls, the figure is much lower — $17,000 a year.
The researchers also found that while absent mothers have a negligible
impact on male adolescent delinquency, motherless homes are 56 percent
more likely to result in teen pregnancy among girls.
“The absence of either parent has a significant effect on the kids
having one kind of pathology or another, but the absence of a father
tends to have a more significant effect, and it seems to more
seriously affect the sons,” said Phillips, whose research also
indicates that step-fathers may in fact contribute to the problem.
“The effect of the presence or absence of moms and dads on
childbearing at a young age among girls are more equal than their
effect on delinquency by boys.”
Phillips and Comanor are about to embark on a study of delinquency
among teenage girls, which is on the rise despite being far less
prevalent than delinquency among adolescent boys.
“A lot of kids get involved in crime long before they are able to make
rational choices about crime vs. legitimate work,” Phillips says. “And
that’s our motivation in doing this research-finding out the
importance of the family in the whole process.”
Originally posted at http://www.instadv.ucsb.edu/InstAdv/PublicAffairs/Releases/fatherless

These days, the marriage rate is actually falling in many places and the divorce rate is rising. As a result, many more children are being raised in single parent homes, or in non-traditional familial set ups. And for the first time in many decades, teen pregnancy is also on the rise.
Just this past January, the New York Times ran a report on the issue of teen age pregnancy:

After more than a decade of declining teenage pregnancy, the pregnancy rate among girls ages 15 to 19 increased 3 percent from 2005 to 2006 — a turnaround likely to intensify the debate over federal financing for abstinence-only sex education.

The reason for this increase, according to the Times, is the failure of the “abstinence-only sex education offered to teens [which was funded first by the Clinton and then the Bush Administrations]”
But is the problem even more complex than that? Is it the breakdown of the family structure as we know it that is behind the disturbing trend? The trend of teen age pregnancy is so prevalent, that MTV has a hit docu-series called, Teen Moms that chronicles the lives of about 4 teen mothers. While these girls have some male figures around, except for one character, it doesn’t appear that any of these girls live in a traditional home with both parents.
But even assuming that divorce has something to do with the rise in teen pregnancies, one has to wonder why? And by the way, it seems that an absent father has a more damaging effect on both boys and girls than an absent mother, even though with regard to the specific issue of teen pregnancy, an absent mother may have a greater impact on teen girls. But why does parental absence (and specifically divorce) lead to teen pregnancy?  Is it as simple as teenagers rebelling? Or is it that they are searching for love and affection (of a lost parent) in all the wrong places? Or what? And what can be done to alleviate the problem?
Resources matter. One thing that often happens after a divorce is that the household income drops by at least 50% if not more. Even in a situation where the father continues to pay child support, it still is not the same as when the parents are married and are pooling their money. Poverty seems to breed delinquency in young people. They are bored, disillusioned and unmotivated. Sex, especially unprotected sex, gives them a sense of belonging and power and excitement. The consequences of their actions may be somewhere in the back of their heads, but is hardly a deterrent.
Parents obviously need to stop divorcing their kids when they divorce each other. They need to stay relevant in their kids’ lives – even big kids and teenagers. Children need their parents. They need to know that their parents have expectations for them in spite of divorce. They need to see their parents and continue to have a nurturing parent/child relationship. Even though the parents may have moved on and have new relationships and spouses, the children need to know that they are not being replaced in their parents’ lives.
Image credit