Pregnancy and parenting: Resolving adolescent dilemmas in urban high school completion

Ann Denise Harris-Jacobs, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which pregnancy and parenting have an impact on adolescent girls as they attempt to complete high school. Using an interview protocol, a demographic questionnaire, taped interviews, and field notes, data were gathered describing factors that helped or hindered high school completion, as perceived by the participants. Five adolescent mothers, three who completed high school and two who dropped out, participated in this study. After an analysis of the data, generalizing to the population or drawing a profile was not possible; nevertheless, some common themes were found. (1) The five participants were like other teenage mothers who reported their pregnancies as unintended. (2) The five participants were from ethnic and racial minorities; three were Black and two were Hispanic. (3) The five participants were from low socioeconomic families and only one participant was not receiving public assistance. It was possible to infer that high school completion and pursuing an equivalency diploma through General Education Development (GED) were influenced, in part, by personal, family, and school factors: (1) Personal characteristics such as responsibility, determination, and perseverance appeared to enable the five participants. (2) Strong family support and encouragement were important in enabling the three participants who completed high school and the two participants who were pursuing GED diplomas. Schools played an important role in the lives of the five participants. (1) Transition to high school is important in preventing truancy and dropping out and is related, in part, to becoming a teenage mother. (2) Smaller schools appear to create a more "user-friendly" atmosphere in order for students to be successful. (3) Schools with on-site child care and parenting programs appear to assist teenage mothers as they are completing high school. While schools alone may not be able to prevent teenage pregnancy, some intervention strategies may be helpful; they include: (1) Creating curricula that connect classroom instruction to the world of work and continuing education. (2) Providing flexible school schedules so that teenage mothers can continue their education while they assume the role as parents. (3) Creating opportunities for parents to become involved in parent/school discussions which address the teenage pregnancy and parenting issue. Finally, more studies that investigate the impact of pregnancy and parenting on school completion are needed. Two possibilities include: (1) Studies that target younger teens who become pregnant before reaching high school to determine what school obstacles they encounter. (2) Studies that compare the high school completion rate of teen mothers in high schools with on-site child care and those schools without.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Harris-Jacobs, Ann Denise, "Pregnancy and parenting: Resolving adolescent dilemmas in urban high school completion" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9729604.