Growing Up - Teenage Problems


Issues: Single and lone parents


So what is happening to our children? Are they really reaching puberty early?

At the turn of the century, the average age at which girls started menstruating was 16, and by the 1980’s the average age was just over 13 but there is evidence to suggest the mean age has fallen even further. It is much more difficult to ascertain when boys reach puberty without asking intimate questions. Boys were maturing between the ages of 11 and 14, while more studies show that a substantial proportion are now reaching puberty at ten.
But boys and girls are bigger and stronger than they used to be, with the result that they are maturing sexually much sooner. For example an 11 - year - old boy does not understand the meaning of sex and has no understanding of the meaning of parenthood.
However, there is no evidence to suggest the age at which children reach puberty would continue to fall, because improvements in nutrition had reached a peak. The average age at which children first have intercourse is coming down, and it is almost a result of increased awareness of sexual matters through magazines, television and the pop industry.
There is also no doubt that the more open a society is about sexual matters at earlier ages, the more responsible young people are about sexual behaviour. In schools, sex education lessons need to be on the curriculum earlier, a fact borne out by the increase in the number of children experimenting at younger and younger ages. However, many of the young people who were interviewed who had lost their virginity before they were 16 regretted it later and said they wished they had waited until they were older.


Teens want sex education

Ignorance about sexuality and contraception increases teenagers’ exposure to the health risks of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But parents are often uncomfortable talking to their children about sexual matters, so teens instead get information from their peers. Surveys show that teenage sexual activity is increasing in many countries, and that in some, adolescents are starting sexual activity earlier and having more partners and more casual relationships. But many sexually active teens know little about reproduction and contraception. That’s why they sometimes tell each other that if you have sexual intercourse maybe while standing in a river, or if after having sexual intercourse you take a number of capsules or aspirins, you won’t be pregnant.
This report also notes that teenage mothers are at least twice as likely to die during childbirth and their children have higher levels of illness and death.
Furthermore young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual transmitted diseases.
But adolescents are often too ashamed or too poor to seek help from health services.
Many first sexual experiences are with older partners, often the result of force or financial inducements, that girls from poor families may find difficult to resist.

The fact is that teenagers are being exposed to things like HIV, or STDs and teenage pregnancy, and they need to know how to handle their sexuality at a certain stage in life.
The misconception is that sex education teaches people how to have sex, whereas it actually teaches young people about the development of their body, reproductive health and contraceptives.
A world wide research has shown that school sex education does not increase sexual activity but reduces teen pregnancy and STDs.
The report also finds that family life education leads to responsible sexual behaviour, including higher level of abstinence, higher use of contraception and fewer sexual partners.
These effects are greater where children and parents discuss sex and reproduction frankly.

Since 1994, many governments and non governmental organisations have taken initiatives meet adolescents’ reproductive and sexual health needs. Programmes at a clinic help them to see that adolescence is a positive stage where they can enjoy life, and help them to be able to make decisions and choices that develop positive self - images’. And nurses see the positive changes that sex education can bring.


Pregnancies among under 16s have started to increase again. But even though they are far less likely to get pregnant today than they were in the early 1970’s.

Experts said society was still reluctant to acknowledge teenage sexuality and sexual activity.
There needed to be more openness at home, relevant sex education at school and easy availability of well publicised, confidential advice and contraceptive services.

Britain’s teenage pregnancy rates are the highest in Europe where about 3% of teenage British women give birth each year at which one in three of these teenage pregnancies is terminated.
Almost all of these who give birth are 18 or 19 years old and many are in touch with their partner who tries to support them as best he can and of those who are not in touch marry later another one.

It is also as likely that a child born out of wedlock will later experience a traditional two parent family as that one born in wedlock will experience a lone parent family as a result of divorce.

Girls who become pregnant in their teens tend to be poor, unsuccessful, unable to see a hopeful future and attracted to motherhood as one viable role. So teenage parents are more likely to come from families with low socio - economic status and financial hardship.

For variety and economic reasons, some women feel that it is better to get childbearing over while they are young. For example such women say they can be friends with their children if they have them young, and still have time for further training and career.

The proportion of pregnant teenagers choosing motherhood declined sharply after the 1967 Abortion Act offered people the choice of terminating an unwanted pregnancy.
So the likelihood of a pregnant teenager having an abortion decreases with the age.
Looking after a computerised "living doll" is making teenage girls think
twice about unprotected sex.

Dana Katherine doesn’t even cry, but a red light in her computerised brain is flashing, evidence that she has had a rough start to live with Katie Hudson, her 15 - year - old mother.
Katie does not look capable of hurting a baby, but she is furious while she is taking her first 48 hours of motherhood. Dana, her name only for the two days she is in the tender care of Katie, is one of the 100 computerised dolls in an attempt to help cut Britain’s teenage pregnancy rate. Bought by schools, youth clubs and children’s homes, the babies are being used to give teenage volunteers the short, sharp shock of early parenthood, without any of the joy. According to Katie are two days enough to make anyone think hard about unprotected sex. A stressful six times a day, for up to 35 minutes a time, Dana is programmed to emit an ear piercing cry. She will only stop when her mother inserts a plastic key into her back, simulating the relief of a bottle.

The Focus One youth club in Boston is a magnet for bored teenagers whose alternative attraction is petty crime. Ignorance and peer pressure are the prime causes of under age pregnancies. Many girls known to Focus One members are reportedly raped without recognising it as rape.

Katie is the first volunteer in the club who doesn’t have a boyfriend, she is just in between relationships, she jokes. It is almost 15 hours since she got the baby for a weekend of disturbed and deprived sleep. As if Dana is waiting for the most embarrassing place to let rip, she lets out her metallic cry like an irritating announcement in the coffee shop of the town’s department store.
For Katie it is bad enough that the doll makes a noise, let alone that anyone thinks it real. Once Dana started crying again, but if you don’t get her clothes off and put the key in within a minute, the computer says that you have abused the baby because only the key stops the crying. All teenagers who already had to care about Dana were happy to give it back. The boys thought it was a big joke and hit the doll. They don’t have to bear the consequences of getting pregnant.
Furthermore they have to be careful anyway and, after living with the baby for two days it really makes them be more careful.
In fact, the dolls are free of many of the irksome ingredients of early life such as sterilising, nappy changing, washing, colic and nappy rash. The idea is to give them a shock of the routine needed to look after a baby.


A school for expectant teenagers and schoolgirl mothers is being planned in Cheshire, to allow girls to continue their lessons during and after pregnancy.
They hope the school will enable them to achieve more in their education and give them support at this difficult time because many girls leave school when they become pregnant and never return to the education system. And that’s why they also hope the school will encourage them back into education.


The need for special support

Among the most vulnerable lone parents are very young mothers. Only five per cent of lone parents are teenage mothers, and with improved contraceptive information, advice and support, the percentage is declining. Bringing up a child in any circumstances is a demanding and testing business. Doing so alone is daunting.
Luckily most young mothers do have the support of their own families. But many teenage pregnancies are not discovered until the pregnancy is advanced. Often teenagers themselves have either not wanted to face the truth or been ignorant. They may have known but been scared to tell anyone.
Few parents are likely to feel joyful at the news. Most feel angry and let down.
As a parent or friend it is difficult not to pressurise to get the decision we want - this is her decision and she must live with the consequences. It is important that she faces up to the consequences of any decision she makes.
The aim is to help the young mother become an independent adult able to care for her child, so we might start off giving intensive support.

Having a healthy baby

Giving the baby the best start in life and looking after the mother’s health is an important first step, also attending antenatal care is a must. Encouraging a proper diet with plenty of milk for calcium and fresh fruit and vegetables as well abstention from alcohol, tobacco or drugs is important.

Options for housing

If a young mother, who has been thrown out by her parents, is under 16 they will have to take her into local authority care and find her accommodation in a children’s home, with foster parents or in a mother and baby hostel. Due to the lack of places, many local authorities only give one offer of a place to live.

Education training and work

Some schools have the facilities and are positive towards helping young pregnant women, others are not. The best long term option for the pregnant schoolgirl is to finish her studies, providing she is healthy and can cope. Some Local Education Authorities provide specialist units for pregnant schoolgirls in which some basic schoolwork is undertaken. Others will provide a few hours of home tuition each week. When she has had her baby it may be advisable to enter some form of further education or training.

Problems to overcome

The rise in lone parenthood has been one of the most striking demographic and social trends of the last 25 to 30 years. The majority of one parent families are created as a result of separation and divorce. Parent and child alike may have experienced a good deal of pain in a separation and the parent may be trying to overcome bitterness in order to set up a positive relationship for the sake of the children.
Few experiences of relationship breakdown are easy, unless both partners want to separate and are very mature about their reasons for doing so. If one parent is being left with the children while the ex goes off with a new partner there is bound to be enormous anger and sense of betrayal. It is very hard for parents not to use children as a kind of battleground over which they fight to prove which one is in the right. Such parental fighting does a great deal of harm to children. Some of it is long term and may affect their health and prospects for success, and in many cases the harm is already done by the time the parents decide to separate.

The Divorce Express

Author: Paula Danziger

Plot synopsis:
Fourteen - year - old Phoebe has to deal with a split family life since her parents divorce, experiencing all the problems joint custody brings. She lives with her father in Woodstock during the week and at weekends goes down to New York City to be with her mother, riding the Divorce Express.
Phoebe does not make friends anywhere and feels lonely and isolated until she met Rosie who travels up and down to N.Y. on the same bus ....

A growing girl should have parents who act more like grown - ups. Parents are supposed to know what they want out of life and not be confused and constantly making a lot of changes.
Her parents started getting their act together by breaking up. It was a real shock because she did not expect divorce. She had no to say. It was all arranged.

Her mother got to stay in their N.Y. apartment whereas her father got the summer house in Woodstock and also the car.
But both of them got her, joint custody.
That’s why Phoebe lived half a week with one parent, the second half with the other.
For all of eight grade she commuted between the two apartments. During that time she realised the differences between her parents.
Her mother always likes her to wear designer clothes and enjoys living in the city working as an interior decorator.
In contrast her father is always buying her message T - shirts, loving the country and painting.
But after the separation and divorce something happened to her. She never turned in any homework and once she snack in the school because of being too early with the consequence that she was suspended from school for a week. While all of this was being discussed, other decisions were made.
Her mother decided to open up her own design business, so she would have to travel more.
Her father decided to quit his job to live two years in the country. So to be with her mother she went down to N.Y. riding the divorce express which is a bus that leaves Woodstock on Fridays afternoons and returns Sundays filled with kids who live with one parent in town and visit the other parent in N.Y. City. At that point divorce is good for the economy.

Having no friends in the country made her think that her childhood is not easy and after a time she also began to miss her mother. But whenever she dialled her it seems that she has no time for her daughter what gave Phoebe the feeling of never getting used to the divorce.
Her father, a 38 year old single man, loves to listen live music in bars and also liking the waitress there makes Phoebe angry because she has fear to get a stepmother.
The divorce was not the only problem for her because her best friend Katie and her friend Andy who live in N.Y. started going out together what was the reason to say that Woodstock is the place where she has to make a new life.
According to her opinion kids who have gone through divorces are more used to handling problems.
She also has Rosie who she met riding the divorce express and whose mother went out with Phoebe’s father. Her new school is so different than the school in N.Y. because it looks like a factory, sells an awful food and that’s why the pupils try to combat this problem by organising meetings to talk about solutions. That was one reason Phoebe refused to go to her mother but even though she does not like her mother’s friend Duane who talks down to her as if she is three years old and she also don’t like to think about her parents having sex with anyone but each other. Her friend Rosie has the same destiny but she also told that her father spends all the money on his wife’s two kids even without supporting her mother.

All they want to have is a good family and they make plans what their lives are going to be like when they are on their own. They talk about every problem they have what make them feel good but at one point they are different because Phoebe thinks more about the present and Rosie about the future.
In her free time she went to the first meeting of KRAPS which stands for Kilmerites Rebel Against Poor Sustenance where a lot of pupils talk about the first step they can do to combat the awful food at school. Dave, a boy who attends her school attracts her because of his openness and his courage to ask her if she wants to go out with him. On the other hand she is happy that now her parents act like people who have a past history together and try to be civilised. When her mother once called to talk about her broken relationship Phoebe wants to make things all better for her but it is hard enough to cope with her own.
She likes to go out with Dave, having dinner and fun but talking about his family makes her feel sad and also the fact to be an only child. She introduced Dave to her father but at that moment it was not easy to be a parent and seeing that his daughter is growing up.

On Thanksgiving Eve Phoebe and Rosie were on the way down to the city when suddenly the bus had a break and could not drive on. So they had to join another bus and in N.Y. Phoebe’s mother came to catch both. Phoebe got up set when she heard that her mother wants her to get Duane better to know because she can not. She can’t deal with him but her mother puts pressure on her, however, she has to accept him.
For her the man is a real creep and the one her mother wants to marry. Phoebe also got to know that she wants to sell the apartment she had lived in she was born. She feels like a visitor and not like a part of her mother’s life.
In Woodstock both children were caught by Mindy and Jim. The first reaction of Phoebe was that she began to cry and to tell about the marriage and her feelings against her mother.
Her father only said that divorce and remarriage means having more people in her life. Phoebe was curious what was going on behind her back. The answer was that Rosie’s mother and Phoebe’s father have been going out since they first met and began to like each other.
It also means that maybe once Rosie will be her "sister". But at first she decides to go to her mother’s wedding because she is her mother and she will always be.


Generally there are two main routes of entry into lone parenthood

- relationship breakdown and

- the birth of a child outside marriage

There are also two main routes out

- re - partnership

- and children growing up

All lone parents cease to be lone parents as their children grow up but re - partnership is becoming less popular and so exit rates from lone parenthood are falling.
Thus not only are there more people becoming lone parents but those who do are staying lone parents for longer.

A mixed picture emerges when examining the quality of life of lone parents and their children.

On the one hand, negative aspects include:
    much poverty, debt and material hardship. Lone parents spend almost as much on their
children as do married parents and try and protect their children from poverty by spending less on themselves.

    not having a partner with whom to talk and share decision - making, leading to a heavy
burden of responsibility

On the other hand there is a positive aspect to life as a lone parent:

    The children are a source of great love and pride and most lone parents put family life at the top of the list of things that are important to them.


Experiencing the death of a person carries with it the most enormous trauma and adjustment.
If the relationship was a loving and positive one then the sense of loss and grief can feel unbearable. Grieving takes a long time and sometimes people are embarrassed by grief that tends to go on too long. It is difficult to cope with other people’s pain and there may be little we can do to help them to get over it.
So, after the funeral and the socially acceptable time to sympathise, people tend to shun the newly bereaved, and the newly bereaved tend to shun the world at large.

Tiger Eyes

Author: Judy Blume

Plot synopsis: Davey has never felt so alone in her life.
Her father is dead - shot in a hold up - and the rest of the family has moved to New Mexico to try to recover.
But when will she be ready to leave the past behind and move toward the future?
Will she ever stop hurting?

" Blume deals affectingly with grief and adjustment to death in this newest novel.....
Davey’s feelings are credibly and sensitively rendered."

After her fathers death Davey felt so lonely.
Her family were in Baltimore when her uncle read it in the newspaper. But they had no way they could get back in time for the funeral.

"Adam Wexler, 24, shot and killed".

Davey often looked at the articles which told the murderer of her father but she has to face the facts: he was shot in the chest four times by an unknown assailant.
From that on the whole family were afraid to be shot too and that’s the reason why they kept planning a trip to New Mexico where her aunt Bitsy and her uncle Walter live.
Gwen, Davey’s mother, tried to overcome by talking with Bitsy.
Davey always has a knife under her pillow like her mum who has a gun under her bed because they are afraid.
Everything reminds Davey of that night and she is always in the mood to do nothing. She doesn’t want to go to school, she doesn’t eat and that’s why she woke up once in the nurse room at school. Her mother took her to the doctor who said that she is hyperventilating and suggested her to tell herself to relax.
He also recommended a change of scenery and so they decided to visit her aunt. Los Alamos looked ordinary but such as at home the old photos hanging on the wall in the huge living room reminds her of her father. They talked about everything but no one ever mentioned her father. Davey tried to forget by borrowing her aunt’s bike. She drove around till she came to a beautiful canyon where she decided to climb down into the bottom of the canyon.
Suddenly distracted by a lizard she wanted to talk to her father, telling him how safe she felt to be near him. She let her feelings out by crying " please don’t be dead".
Her echo was answered by a boy about 19 or 20, who was wearing hiking boots, no T - shirt and wool socks sticking out over the tops. He introduced himself as Wolf and she said that he should call her Tiger. From that moment on she was always thinking about Wolf.

Her mother had already plenty experiences in dealing with death because her father died when she was in high school and her brother when she was 19.

When they wanted to leave to get home a friend called them and said that their store has been attacked by vandals, looking like a mess. Not knowing they will ever come home Davey often went on the canyon because it was a good place for her thoughts and for meeting Wolf, who did not ask her any questions. But once he said that they have a lot in common because his father is dying. Davey cannot talk about her fathers death and that’s why she tells her friends that her father died of an heart attack.

After a time she joined the candy strippers with her fried Jane in Los Alamos Medical Center, where she has to stop at each room to fill the patients’ pitchers with fresh water and ice.
In one room there was a thin old man called Willie Ortiz, who had cancer and was ready to die. She has to think about her father and went to the canyon but Wolf doesn’t show.
She can’t seem to get rid of the empty feeling that started and won’t get away. Mr. Ortiz and Davey become friends, he still enjoys life even though he is so close to death.
But once when he wants her to meet his son she can’t believe that it is Wolf, who refuses to meet her eyes, while explaining he wants to spend his time with his father than in the canyon.

Christmas was quiet and sad, although each of them pretend to be happy, to be excited by their gifts. Another pain for her was when Wolf said goodbye to her, explaining to see her again "Cuando los lagartijos corren" - when the lizards run.
She wants to sign up. She was also sick of her uncle and aunt, but as long as she lives in their house she has to live by their rules.

Mr. Ortiz died and ordered to give Davey his dancing bear and an envelope.
Her life was full of sadness and thinking about dying scared her because it is so permanent.
The letters she wrote to Wolf came all back. Once she got a present from Wolf, a flat polished stone as big as a quarter. Everyday she rode to the canyon but there was no sign of Wolf. To overcome her problem she went to a psychologist where she told the truth about her fathers dying which was not so easy than to make up a story.

She also enjoyed the moments to talk and to be alone with her mother who suffered all days, deciding to sell their house and their store because of the too many memories there.
They want to make a life on their own after this accident that changed their life.
On the last day Davey drove to the canyon for the last time, the place where she felt closest to her father.


Judy Blume who lives in New York and has written nineteen novels for young people. They have been translated into sixteen languages. She is known and loved by millions of readers for her funny, honest, always believable stories.

Plot synopsis:
Katherine and Michael meet at a New Years Eve party.
They are attracted to each other and grow to love each other. Once they have decided their love is forever, they make love.
Its the beginning of an intense and exclusive relationship, with a future all planned. Until Katherine’s parents insist that she and Michael put their love to the test with a summer apart...

Main characters:
The narrator of this novel is Katherine ( Kath ) Danziger, an eighteen year old girl, who lives in Westfield. One of her hobbies is tennis which she has been playing since she was eight. Katherine is a real romantic and love means more than sex to her.
She also has a good relation to her parents because they talk about everything very openly and Katherine is always allowed to invite her boyfriends home.

Erica is one of Katherine’s best friends since ninth grade. They have no secrets and that’s why they know everything about each other. Erica’s sign is that she is very little but they are a good pair because she is outspoken and uninhibited and Katherine not. Erica is the person who says that she is a realist and not a romantic. Both look at sex differently because Erica sees it as a physical thing and Katherine sees it as a way of expressing love.

Michael Wagner is the boy who Katherine met at the New Years Eve party.
He comes from Summit, has reddish - blond hair and always wears glasses.
He is different than the other boys Katherine knew. Michael can make compliments, is attentive and does not force Katherine to do something she is not ready for. Kath is something special for him and that’s why he does everything not to lose her.

Artie is a good friend of Michael and by Kath is he the perfect friend for Erica.

Katherines family consists of her mother Diana Danziger, her father and her sister Jamie.
Her mother is a very thin and small breasted person. She is a librarian and only wants the best for her daughter.

Her father is a pharmacist and is also very big on physical activity.

Her sister Jamie is five years younger than Kath but a beautiful person who likes to cook. Katherine said that if she would be some years older she would be jealous of her sister but not only of the fact that she can cook.

It was Erica’s idea to go to this New Years Eve party where Kath met Michael for the first time. She was interested in him before she admitted it to anyone.
So this was the beginning of an intense relationship.
Michael always asked her if he was going to do something wrong. She liked his character, his appearance and also his closeness made her feel good.
He was different than some other boys because sex was not all he was interested in. That’s why they often talked openly about their emotions but when Michael asked her if she is still a virgin Kath was a little bit embarrassed.
During their free time they made a lot with Erica and Artie even though they enjoyed it to be alone, to kiss and to make experiences with the first tenderness. Erica was very curious and liked to talk about sex with Kath but Katherine wanted her first intercourse to be special and as romantic as possible.
So she was ready to introduce Michael to her parents and grandparents but there was only one problem. When Michael wanted to sleep with her she was not ready - mentally ready - and so Katherine tried to explain that she has to control her body with her mind. It was special because she thought about making love with him, so sometimes she wanted so much but other times she was afraid.
Her parents were not very happy when Michael invited Kath to Vermont to ski and that’s why they had to think it over if she is allowed to go.
Erica meant that fathers have complexes about their little girl, so they can’t stand the thought of their precious darlings having sex.
Even though she was allowed to go and Michael always told her that he loves her. Kath was not really sure because she thought how can he love her when he has seen her nineteen times in his life ?!
As they came home the first thing Katherine’s parents wanted to know was if everything was OK with them because spending a lot of time together can end a romance faster than anything else. Kath was sure that being together made them stronger.
Once they went to the apartment of his sister to be alone. She wanted to do everything, wanted to feel him inside her. For the first time they used a condom but it was not as romantic as she wanted it to because there was a little problem:
he came before he even got in. Katherine was not disappointed because in the pamphlets from planned parenthood on birth control, abortion and venereal diseases she got from her parents she read that having sex for the first time was not exciting for a virgin.
Nevertheless, her relationship to Michael was perfect only her parents were disappointed that Katherine grow away from her other friends.
Kath knew what she wanted and decided once to go to a clinic in New York where she was given a prescription for the pill after answering personal questions. On her eighteen birthday she got a silver disk engraved with Kath and Michael forever. In this happy moments she told him about taking the pill.
Time went over and she thought about working this summer. Her parents suggested her to go to New Hampshire for seven weeks as an assistant tennis counsellor. After quarrelling and trying to convince them not to go she had no chance because they insisted on a change of scenery for her.
Katherine was desperate how to explain Michael her summer plans but he also said that he got a job in North Carolina, so she did not want to think about facing the summer without him.
After the graduations Kath and her sister Jamie left for camp. They wrote each other everyday writing how they miss each other more and more and that’s why the nights were the worst trying not to think of Michael.
But there was also Theo, the head tennis counsellor. Katherine liked his light green eyes, his brown hair and his patience with the kids and it also seemed that there was something growing between them.
At that point she asked herself how she can love a person and still be attracted to another. After she got the news that her grandfather died Theo comforted her and Kath used this situation to kiss him but he untangled himself and said no, not with dead for an excuse. In the next letter she wrote Michael she explained that something changed and that she met one who got her mixed up.
When Michael once visited her and kissed her she could not let herself feel anything but there was the problem Kath could not tell him what was going on.
He was angry and called her attention to the word forever. For her it was over and they saw each other one more time where she said she will never be sorry for loving him.

Personal comment:
The main theme and problem which was presented in the book was love and sex and mostly described from Katherine’s and Michael’s point of view. So you did not really get some background information about what the parents think, except some comments.
The book will show us what sexual responsibility really means. If someone is going to become sexually active, then he must take responsibility for his own actions and his own life.
So in the book Katherine visited a clinic and was given a prescription for the pill. Today she would be told it is essential to use a condom, along with any other method of birth control.

Forever was written in the mid seventies and sexual responsibility mainly meant preventing unwanted pregnancy. But today sexual responsibility also means preventing sexually transmitted diseases, especially Aids. That’s why it is important to talk with teenagers and to instruct them earlier than at the age of fifteen.

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