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South Afr J Demogr. 1990 Jul;3:11-20.

Teenage pregnancy, whose problem? Realities and prospects for action in KwaZulu/Natal.



Parents, teachers, and community leaders almost universally consider teen pregnancy to be a serious social problem for which a solution is urgently needed. Black teens in KwaZulu/Natal may not, however, view the phenomenon with equal concern and urgency. This paper discusses teen pregnancy in a supportive cultural context. Christian and conservative Zulu parents may openly advocate chastity outside of marriage. Beyond espousing and voicing this view, however, parents tend to ignore the probability that daughters may be engaging in premarital sexual activity. When the daughter eventually becomes pregnant and bears the child, the infant is welcomed into the family, with the family generally providing for the daughter to return and finish her formal education. Teen pregnancy is so prevalent in this society that it has virtually become institutionalized. These parents treat teen pregnancy much as western Middle Age populations dealt with the plague; they dread its entering the family, yet ultimately accept it once it does. Further supporting teen pregnancy is the high value placed upon fertility and childbearing and the role model of successful single women with children who are neither ostracized from nor ridiculed by society. With women delaying the social and economic commitments of marriage, births are increasingly viewed as separate from marriage. Programs targeted at parents and communities must combine with broad sociocultural change to alter cultural rules currently guiding adolescent sexual behavior and fertility.

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