Single Motherhood and Teen Pregnancy

In researching material on single mothers and teen mothers, the factual problems with single mother households, and the stereotypical problems, I found a few interesting issues in the resources I collected which are worth mention. The first is the general statistics of sexual activity and early pregnancy. The second deals with the conflicting views of the effects of single mother families on the children. The third deals with the financial issues of prevalent poverty amongst single mothers, and the fourth focuses on global issues.

Single motherhood is an issue of human rights for a few key reasons. in the United States, the title of "single mother" creates several assumptions about the mother's ability to care for her children, the possible negative emotional and mental effects on the children, and leads right to the label of "dysfunctional family". Considering the fact that many single mother households are so by the choice of the women(not desiring to have a man around) these kinds of stereotypes are presumptuous a huge overgeneralization. To add to the issue of the stamp of disapproval society gives single mother families, many of them in the U.S. are not receiving the aid that they should be. On top of raising one or more children without the help of a second party (whether the woman had no choice in this or chose being single was the better of two options), many women are also having to struggle to stay out of poverty. It is nearly impossible for a woman with an average salary to support children on her own, including the expenses of school, clothes, food, transportation, and other necessities; and this is just the middle range of the spectrum.

These issues fall under human rights concerns because a woman should realistically be able to survive and support her family, alone if necessary, without the censure of society or a lack of aid from the government.

The reasons why U.S. women are increasingly becoming single mothers are teen pregnancy, father disappearances, adoption (by choice and often without financial problems), and the biggest of all, divorce. Reasons for single motherhood become more violent and complicated in their repercussions once investigations are done into other countries, such as Muslim nations, or those who have gone through civil war and internal terrorism. Where there is rape and censure of women, the possibilities of single motherhood grow and the consequences worsen. The specific international cases I found were in Sierra Leone (civil war, rape), and Morocco (issues regarding Muslim law and pregnancy out of wedlock).

Not only are single mothers a hazard and disgrace in many areas of the third world, they are also often illegal. In many places, as soon as a women gets pregnant out of wedlock, she is charged with prostitution (the Moroccan case), and is forced to spend time in jail or pay hefty fines for the crime. These charges are made even if the woman has been raped. These charges are baseless, without trial, and thus an infringement of the autonomy of the woman and her right to not be charged with false crimes and punished; and especially not for the convenience of the governing male individuals.

The following are several important statistics dealing with single mother hood and teen pregnancy:

Most of these statistics are relevant only in our American contemporary society, but they are damaging enough. While teen pregnancy and single motherhood rises in this country, we deal with the issues of poverty and education and employment. In countries in which pregnancy outside of marriage is not allowed, single motherhood may become an issue of life and death for both the mother and the child.

In an article on a Human Rights Page (a href="">, it mentions the sentiments and actions towards single mothers in many Muslim societies. The following is a quote from this article:

"Unmarried mothers are not supposed to exist in Islamic societies, such as Morocco. To become pregnant out of wedlock is not only regarded as extremely disrespectful to the State, it is also illegal. The women and their families are condemned by Moroccan society, and most families simply reject their unmarried daughters."

Another quote from this same article is even more saddening:

"If a woman goes to a maternity unit and does not have a husband, the medical staff are obliged to call the police. The mother must appear before a judge who generally rules that she is a prostitute because there is no other way in Morocco that she could have become pregnant. In the past, women were sentenced to around six months in jail, but because of the growing prison population, most single mothers nowadays are simply fined. However, the 50 to 100 dollar fine is an exorbitant sum for most single mothers, and many have to work as prostitutes to pay the fine [how ironic]. This puts them at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. It also lowers their self-esteem, and many women blame themselves for the pregnancy. They consider their babies 'children of shame'."

Apart form the international issues, such as those in Morocco, the majority which are based on cultural and religious practice, there are the issues of possible solutions and arguments about the problems surrounding single mothers in the U.S. From one side of the issue is an article from a father's magazine talking about how the divorce rate needs to be decreased, and that single mothers should try to marry quickly, to save their children from the disadvantages of not having a father. On the other side, organizations such as Single Mothers by Choice argue that many marital and family situations are bettered by the removal of the father or by the non-existence of one to begin with, even if it is to the financial endangerment of the family. Single mothers by choice can be contacted at the following address:

Jane Mattes, C.S.W.
Single Mothers By Choice
P.O. Box 1642 Gracie Square Station
New York, NY 10028

The following are resources on the World Wide Web, which give information on teen pregnancy, single parenting, single mothers, international issues about pregnancy and single mothers, and other related sources.