Teen pregnancy in young adult literature

Nichols, Kristen
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In a study of twenty young adult novels, the following research question is addressed: How realistic is the portrayal of pregnant teens, specifically from the perspective of the pregnant and/or parenting teen, in young adult literature from 1990-2004? This study includes an analysis of the twenty novels for how choice (abortion, adoption, or parenting), gender (focusing on novels written from the male's perspective), and education (high school and college), which are influenced by socioeconomic status and ethnicity, are represented in comparison to statistics and non-fiction accounts of pregnant and parenting teens. Though the authors of these twenty young adult novels make an attempt to illustrate some aspects of teen pregnancy and parenting realistically, overall the portrayal of teen pregnancy in young adult literature is unrealistic. In terms of choice, while forty percent of pregnant teens have abortions, only two of the twenty (ten percent) protagonists have abortions; and while only three percent of pregnant teens choose adoption, seven of the twenty (twenty-nine percent) protagonists choose adoption. In terms of gender, six of the twenty novels include the teen father's perspective. Though in reality some teen fathers are involved in their children's lives, the novels do no realistically portray the difficulties of teen fatherhood. Regarding education, while forty-one percent of teens who begin families before age eighteen never complete high school, all of the protagonists in the novels are in school; furthermore, while only 1.5 percent of teen mothers have a college degree by age thirty, eight of the twelve (sixty-seven percent) parenting teens in the novels are college bound. Finally, while twelve of the twenty (sixty percent) protagonists are middle class, eighty percent of pregnant teens are of low socioeconomic status; and while only four protagonists are African American and two protagonists have Hispanic partners, research shows the pregnancy rates for African American and Hispanic teenagers in 1999 were more than twice the rate of non-Hispanic white teens. Therefore, given statistics and nonfiction accounts of teen's experiences, teen pregnancy is portrayed unrealistically in young adult literature.