Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Too young for sex

Published:Wednesday | June 17, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Glenn Tucker
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In a June 6 letter in The Gleaner, a writer recommended that the age of consent be lowered to 14. This is great news. Great for the mothers who are busy pimping out their daughters even before that age. Great for the predators who are forced to find expensive and creative ways to conceal their perverted predilections.

Perhaps this is why the children's advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, is dead set against such a move. In fact, she wants it to be moving in the opposite direction - to 18.

Sex goes hand in hand with the readiness to accept and deal with pregnancy and STIs, even if protection is used. Is a 14-year-old ready? Does she own a home? Can she pay rent? Does she have a marketable skill and is employed? Is she in a committed relationship with someone who is ready for fatherhood?

The persons I know who started bearing children at that age have some things in common: limited educational attainment, restricted economic opportunities, marital instability and a general standard of living significantly below that of their peers who postponed childbearing.

Ask them about their plans for the future, days after giving birth, and I guarantee the first response will be 'to go back to school'. Ask again five years later and the response will be 'to go back to school'. But this rarely ever happens, and the cycle of persistent poverty starts all over again.

 

BAD TIME

 

The intellectual development of a 14-year-old explains why this is a bad time to grant this kind of independence. They are natural risk-takers. You would have a difficult time convincing them that they can get pregnant or that the vehicle they are in could be involved in an accident. To them, they are invincible.

Most pregnancies continue to birth as myths and administrative ambivalence minimise opportunities for terminations. These children neglect medical care during pregnancy and are often ignorant about nutrition, infections, substance abuse and complications during pregnancy.

The Transnational Family Research Institute claims that teen mothers are at a high risk of experiencing depression, birth complication, toxaemia, anaemia, and even death. Although some I have spoken to see pregnancy as some sort of achievement and an opportunity to have someone to love, they are often not emotionally prepared for childbirth and motherhood.

Apart from depression, they can experience anxiety, resentment - as she is just beginning to realise that her partner does not see his responsibilities extending beyond the donation of the sperm - and a feeling of failure. It is rare to find one who does not exhibit low self-esteem.

Mental-health issues are common in teen moms. When this is present, it results in poor adaptive skills, delayed language and social and developmental delays in the young child. These babies are at risk of neglect and abuse by these young mothers who are overwhelmed and frustrated by the constant demands.

What is seen locally is an attempt by the father's family to put as much distance between their precious son and the pregnant girl.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees that a child born to a teen mom is more likely to have behavioural problems, chronic medical issues, and lower proficiency scores upon entering early-childhood institutions. Boys are at greater risk of incarceration as teens or young adults, dropping out of school, and parenting a child at a young age.

 

NOT MENTALLY READY

 

The brain of a 14-year-old is not developed enough to make mature decisions about sexuality. That's why their parents have to sign consent forms for them and they can't form their own contracts. Nor can they vote, buy liquor, watch certain movies on their own or own a driver's licence.

The family is the basic unit of society. Without it, there can be no true society. One of the most critical functions of a family is procreation. When the child-bearing process becomes a casual, unplanned, expensive intrusion, it compromises the consanguinity, affinity and empathic blending that is so critical for the development of a solid family unit. What results spawns every evil that troubles the world today.

Family values, and church and societal norms provide some with that inner voice that encourages them to weigh the consequences of certain activities. Unfortunately, however, a growing number of our youth move about like rudderless ships without the benefit of any of these influences.

Eventually, all these problems become ours.

- Glenn Tucker is a sociologist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenntucker2011@gmail.com.