Late adolescents' experiences of their early adolescent pregnancy and parenting in a semi-rural Western Cape community
Van Zyl, Lenka
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Adolescent pregnancy has been a global phenomenon of great concern for a considerable time. Adolescent pregnancy and parenting can lead to negative consequences for both adolescents and their infants in health, psychological, developmental and educational spheres. In South Africa recent media reporting has pointed out that adolescent pregnancy at times culminates in infant abandonment. Adolescence is a difficult transition period and the added stress of pregnancy and parenting creates specific challenges. Adolescent parents’ conflicting roles as adolescents, striving for independence, and as parents, who have to care for their children in a selfless manner, have been shown to complicate their lives significantly. Research has indicated that adolescent pregnancy mostly occurs in resource-poor, black, rural, or semi-rural communities. Support for pregnant and parenting adolescents in such communities seems to be minimal, and research on experiences of adolescent pregnancy and parenting in the South African context is scant. Therefore the aim of this study was to explore late adolescents’ (18-22) experiences of their pregnancy and parenting during early adolescence (12-18). The research context was a resource-poor community, namely Sir Lowry’s Pass Village in the Helderberg basin in the Western Cape. The researcher wanted to shed light on the particular challenges and strengths of participants, to inform practice and make suggestions so as to promote support for such parents. From the findings of this study it became clear that participants found adolescent pregnancy and parenting to be a challenging experience. They made mention of various factors complicating their experience of pregnancy and parenting, such as their socio-economic circumstances; stigma experienced from the community, family, peers, and educational and health-related systems; loss and sacrifices; lack of support; and feelings of powerlessness. They felt overwhelmed by their parenting experiences as a result of lack of parenting skills, and the fact that their parental rights were often not respected. However, pregnancy and parenting were also viewed as positive and inspiring in that adolescent parents viewed their children as a source of comfort. Furthermore, they indicated that parenting was more manageable with support, and that becoming parents rendered them more responsible individuals. These findings concur with prior research on adolescent pregnancy and parenting. This study adds value to the field of adolescent pregnancy and parenting in that prior findings were corroborated, and that an adolescent father’s perspective was included. Research on adolescent fathers in the South African context is limited. This study provides a clearer understanding of pregnant and parenting adolescents’ needs and what they find supportive, which could assist health care professionals, welfare organisations, schools, and significant others in supporting them more adequately.
- Humanities 
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