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Teens having babies – challenges and opportunities

Media release
EMBARGOED against publication until 9 am Wednesday 7 November 2011

Teens having babies – challenges and opportunities

New research undertaken by the Families Commission looks at the tough realities of teen parenting, busts some myths and says there are important steps we can take to provide greater support, choice and opportunity for young mums and dads.

Chief Commissioner, Carl Davidson says, “New Zealand has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world and it’s a fact that becoming a parent at a young age brings some real challenges, but with support they can make better choices and have great outcomes.”

He says, “Some regions in New Zealand experience higher levels of teenage birth and parenthood, largely explained by higher socio-economic deprivation and population characteristics.”

However, Mr Davidson says, “Understanding what motivates and affects teen parents will help us find the best ways to improve outcomes for teens themselves and their families and whānau.”

“We often make assumptions that are not substantiated by evidence. For example, teen parents under the age of 17 are relatively rare in New Zealand. The number of teen births to those 17 years and younger are much lower than older teens. Two thirds of births to teenagers in New Zealand are to 18 and 19 year olds who are legal adults.”

Mr Davidson says research also shows that for many teen parents, having a child is a turning point in their lives and can lead to them taking more responsibility. “Some of these young parents do an amazing job, but let’s not underestimate how tough it can be.”

“What’s important is that they have the right pathways and support. Right there, you have a critical opportunity to invest in two generations of young people and help them to thrive.”

The Families Commission has identified five areas which will help achieve better outcomes for teen parents and their children, based on the impact on young parents of repeat pregnancies and how these affect their future opportunities.

Mr Davidson says, “We need intensive support for transition to further education, training and employment; relationship education and continuous contraception advice and support over two years; accessible support for teen fathers which engages them in parenting; culturally appropriate support for Māori teen parents and well-connected local networks that focus on teen parenthood.”

Mr Davidson says, “What’s really important is that these recommendations work across society, communities, peer groups, and teen parents themselves - and their family and whānau.”


Editor’s Notes:

The Teen pregnancy and parenting report will be available from www.familiescommission.govt.nz at 9am, Wednesday 7 December 2011.

The Teen pregnancy and parenting report was undertaken by the Families Commission at the request of the Minister of Social Development, the Hon Paula Bennett.

Myth busting: some key statistics
• Teen pregnancy is not on the rise - although NZ has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the world, rates are not on the rise - they have remained relatively stable since the 1980s.

• In regions with higher rates of teen motherhood, the rates can be largely explained by higher socio-economic deprivation.

• High rates are not the same as high numbers for example, although Ruapehu District had the highest percentage of teenage parenthood of all the territorial authorities in New Zealand with 9.6 per cent, this only equated to 39 teenage women with at least one child. In comparison, Manukau with only 4.2 per cent of teenage parenthood, actually equates to 495 teenage women with at least one child.

• Although Māori rates are significantly higher we should note that Māori are a younger population, have a higher fertility rate than the total New Zealand populations and Maori fertility peaks between ages 20 and 24 which is ten years earlier than Pakeha fertitlity peak.

• Teen parents under the age of 17 are relatively rare in New Zealand - the number of teen births to those 17 years and younger are much lower than older teens. Two-thirds of births to teenagers in New Zealand are to 18 and 19 year olds who are legal adults.

• Regions with higher rates do not appear to have unusually high rates of teen mothers under 17 years or teen mothers with more than once child.

Key recommendations of the Families Commission

1. Local networks of connected services targeted at teen parents

2. More investment in services that are inclusive of and responsive to teen fathers’ needs and engages them in their role as parents.

3. Greater emphasis placed on culturally appropriate support for Māori teen parents.

4. To prevent repeat pregnancy there needs to be continuous monitoring, intensive support and contraceptive advice over a two year period following the birth of a baby.

5. Supported pathways into education,training and employment. Connnection to the education system after the birth of a first child has been shown to reduce the risk of a second teenage pregnancy and is important for improving the lives of young mothers and their children. Young parents who access Teen Parent Units value these highly. However, the transition from TPU to independence can be difficult. Teen parents need supported access to multiple avenues of education – post-secondary school courses, employment or apprenticeship opportunities while they are still studying at TPUs to help smooth the transition. Flexible employment options and access to afforbable childcare are also critical factors in enable them to pursue these options.

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