16&P: Sex ed and dropouts, shuffling kids, teen mom resentment

Yes, this post is delayed — my apologies, I didn’t see this week’s 16 and Pregnant until Friday night. Anyway, on last week’s episode, we met Nicole, a high school sophomore who was having a baby with her 16-year-old boyfriend Tyler.

Like other couples on the show, Nicole and Tyler used absolutely no birth control. I wonder how much of this is teenage “this won’t happen to me” and how much is simply a lack of education, as Tyler dropped out of school at the age of 13, when most teenagers are learning the basics of reproduction.

Aside from the topic of dropping out of school at an early age, this episode also highlighted shuffling a baby from house to house and the possible resentment of being a teen mom.

1. Dropping out of school at an early age. Tyler dropped out of school at the age of 13, which immediately causes problems for him as a parent. He has limited education, no high school diploma or GED, and little motivation to go beyond skateboarding and lazing all day. If it weren’t for his estranged mom’s getting him a job where she works, I’m not sure how successful he would have been at finding a job.

An important factor to note in his early departure from school is that he likely left before even learning about contraception. I hate to cite Wikipedia, but between Wikipedia and the Guttmacher Institute, it’s easy to see that most sex ed tracks mimic my own experience in public school. We learned about puberty in fifth grade, reproduction in seventh grade, and didn’t learn about condoms and pregnancy prevention until tenth grade (my high school started in tenth grade, not ninth).

If Tyler left school that early, he likely did not get the sex education class that usually isn’t taught to teens until they are 15 or 16 — if you’re lucky enough to be in a school district that teaches comprehensive and not abstinence-only sex ed, and if you’re lucky enough to be in a comprehensive sex ed class in which the teacher doesn’t disproportionately teach abstinence.

Although Nicole did stay in school, she was 15 when she got pregnant — who knows if she had even learned about pregnancy prevention. It’s interesting to note that the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is eight times that of Japan and the Netherlands, as more than half the primary schools in the Netherlands discuss contraception and sexuality, and in Japan, sex ed is mandatory beginning from ages 10/11. Kids are maturing faster, and the educational system needs to catch up to curtail an increase in teen pregnancies.

2. Shuffling a baby from house to house. Nicole and Tyler rotated between spending time at Tyler’s grandma’s, Tyler’s mom’s, and Nicole’s house. This was mostly because they didn’t have a place of their own, and this rotating schedule allowed multiple to help take care of baby Brooklyn and allowed them refuge elsewhere when the parent or grandparent was getting tired of helping out.

Tyler’s mom became irate after a few weeks of this shuffling, as she said Brooklyn needed a stable home and not to be moved from place to place. I hadn’t really thought of that before, even though Maci and Amber both spent time shuffling Bentley and Leah, respectively, between houses when they were not living with their babies’ fathers. Amber’s situation was more like a divorced parent, while Maci and Ryan would move between houses together with Bentley before they broke up.

It’s difficult to find articles about families who together rotate or shuffle between homes — they aren’t necessarily “homeless” in the sense that they don’t have a roof over their heads; they have lots of options for housing, and with family members to boot. I’m not sure how the unstableness would affect Brooklyn’s view toward possessions — she might become very defensive of personal possessions because she lacks her own permanent space.

3. Teen mom resentment. I don’t know the back story to Tyler and his mother’s fighting, but I’m curious if his mom has some resentment toward him because she had him when she was 17 years old. The way she demeans him and the way he left her house at age 11 makes me think that he was a reminder of a past life, a life when she was irresponsible, made mistakes, or perhaps he just reminds her of his father, which could be a sore subject.

I also think this scenario is accurate because she isn’t a delinquent mom across the board — she cares for her two younger daughters without a problem and shows them affection without a problem, either. I think being a teen mom caused her hardship and struggle, and the physical symbol of that pain is Tyler, so she takes her anger and frustration out on him.

As my fellow 16 and Pregnant analyst Erin pointed out to me, Tyler’s mom might have just been disappointed that he dropped out of school at 13 and that he followed in her footsteps by becoming a teen parent. Tyler’s mom did turn around when he went back to school, even getting him a job at her workplace and offering sound advice about not shuffling the baby around, but I don’t think this is proof that the resentment issue isn’t there.

Tyler left when he was 11, before he chose to drop out of school. I think there were deeper problems that caused him to leave, and the fact that he dropped out of school and became a teen parent only strained their relationship.

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Tonight’s episode will have a much quicker blog turnaround.

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