British policy on teenage pregnancy and childbearing: the limitations of comparisons with other European countries

Arai, Lisa (2003). British policy on teenage pregnancy and childbearing: the limitations of comparisons with other European countries. Critical Social Policy, 23(1) pp. 89–102.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0261018303023001496

Abstract

British policy makers justify their concern about youthful pregnancy and childbearing by comparing relatively high British teenage pregnancy rates with lower rates in other European countries. These comparisons are a feature of 'technical/educational' explanations for youthful childbearing (explanations that depict adolescent pregnancy as a consequence of a lack of sex education and poor use of contraception). Such comparisons are inappropriate for a number of reasons. They fail to take account of the variation in adolescent reproductive behaviour and outcomes in the rest of Europe (such as variation in pregnancy rates and differential use of abortion). They also attribute low rates of teenage pregnancy to sexual openness and sex education, yet the evidence for this is mixed. In addition, such comparisons assume that Britain can learn from the experience of other European nations, despite evidence that Britain is unique, in some respects, within Europe. Policy makers must recognize the multiple reasons for early childbearing.

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