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  1. ITV Report

Challenging the stereotype of the teenage mother

Young mums at a training centre in Hartlepool. Photo: ITV News

With teenage pregnancy at its lowest rate for more than 40 years, a Teesside University academic is challenging the popular stereotype of the teenager mother.

Far from being "prophets of doom" as teenage mothers are often depicted, Dr Lisa Arai, a Senior Lecturer in Research Methods in the School of Health & Social Care, says the majority of teenage mothers enjoy motherhood - and that their lives do not change drastically as a result of having a baby.

New data has shown that the teenage pregnancy rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1969.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show conceptions in under-18s fell to 34,633 in 2010 compared with 38,259 in 2009, a drop of 9.5%.

Dr Arai, who has published a book "Teenage Pregnancy: The Making and Unmaking of a Problem", believes that more needs to be done to challenge the stereotype of teenage mothers.

"Overall the teenage fertility rate has been steadily falling since the 1970's and contrary to popular belief, we just don't have a teenage pregnancy crisis in this country. The media depiction of an epidemic of teenage motherhood is not justified.

"The teenage mother is portrayed as a prophet of doom who symbolises everything that is wrong within our society. But one thing that strikes me when I have interviewed teenage mothers is how happy they are and how much they enjoy motherhood. Their lives are actually affected very little by having a baby and they see motherhood as a happy and rewarding experience."

– Dr Arai, Teesside University

Dr Arai suggests that Government policy has always been anti-teenage pregnancy and she believes that evidence is often "cherry-picked" to suit the agenda.

She says the challenge is in changing the stereotype, making people realise that the teenage mother is not a burden on society and in fact motherhood can be enjoyed at any age.