Why are we all so shocked that Britain’s baby-faced Alfie may have fathered a child at the age of 13?

Why are we all so shocked that Britain’s baby-faced Alfie may have fathered a child at the age of 13? We had outraged politicians, sniggering journalists and upset Mums, in short; the whole media hoopla, but could someone please tell me why this is suddenly a story?

I suppose teenage pregnancy is no novelty if you’ve been living in Whangarei the last 7 years.

A 17 year old sharing the maternity ward with me sparked my mid-life crisis at 35 when she asked me what ‘number’ this child was. When I told her it was my first, she looked at me like I had fertility issues and answered; “Seriously?! This is my third!! What have you been doing?!”

She was right. Sure. There’d been all that education, travelling, and working in other countries, but if you really added it up I was now back working in a provincial New Zealand town and not earning any more than if I’d left school at 15 and had 3 kids on the DPB.

So where was the incentive for doing anything different and taking the tough road out by hitting the books and working hard before making the decision to start a family? I could see it but it was proving hard to explain to the 17 year old.

The numbers certainly didn’t add up once you’d taken childcare costs out of the equation and neither did the high stress levels of maintaining a family home and raising a child while spending most of the day working – outside of the home. In short – the management of a 5 ring circus with a variety of wildlife, potential fire risks and acrobatic acts that most working Mums pull off on a daily basis. If it hadn’t been for the tax breaks and childcare introduced by Labour in the Working for Families programme many of us who had become the main breadwinners on teachers’ or nurses’ salaries would have been far better off financially (and psychologically!) chucking our jobs, having another baby and signing up for the DPB. It doesn’t take an economist to know that taken from a global perspective that this - is, well, nuts.

Every year in New Zealand thousands of teenage girls have babies. Over the last 5 years, on average, 34 kiwi children a year are born to mothers between the ages of 11 and 14.

That’s not the total number of pregnancies – that’s the number of live births. I don’t see anyone getting terribly outraged by that. Once you hit the 14 to 19 bracket the numbers just skyrocket.

13 year old Alfie might have caught the attention of the press but the effort required to create a child for a boy/bloke is minimal whereas the physical strain of carrying a pregnancy to full term for a still growing child is potentially horrific, let alone the greater social costs of having children raising children.

Whether or not it’s due to the sexualising of our culture from the High School Musical end of the spectrum to the Pussy Cat Dolls – is hard to say.

Most of us old girls know that no one got a law degree or finished med school by rolling round on the floor in tanning oil and French knickers all day but if you got your general knowledge from watching TV it would be difficult to know this. Neither is sex education the answer.

Teenagers know about sex like they know about pencils. Anyone who has ever taught teenage boys – will know that just because they are familiar with the concept of ‘pencil’ doesn’t mean they will ever bring one to class – much less put them in a pencil case. This logic extends I’m afraid to condoms. Teenage Dads have nothing to worry about – they’ll be off playing Grand Theft Auto and skate-boarding with their mates by the end of the week.

It’s the girls that we’ve got to worry about.

While Alfie might not have understood the word ‘financially’, any young girl watching her Mum work as a caregiver in a nursing home (about $13 an hour before tax), or working in restaurants in small town NZ is able to do the maths and work out where her best financial options lie. Can we really blame them?

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June 16, 2009 at 2:30 PM Anonymous said...

Hmmm: Sydney/Australia headline today:
"12 Year Old Mother"
...the 12 year old girl is pregnant to her live-in 15 year old boyfriend... Social services and Police never stepped in when the girls Father asked them to intervene...

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