Should teens be allowed to parent?

Some background: I was a teen mother who, because of my family’s religious beliefs, was pretty much forced into giving birth and raising my son (at 17). I was not given many skills or much support to accomplish his task, and although my son and I both survived the experience, it was not without trauma and difficulty.

Fast forward many years. My teen daughter gets pregnant, and despite being encouraged (by me) to consider all her options, chooses to have her child at 15.
She is by no means a horrible mother, but she is extremely immature and impulsive. She is currently about to make some very poor choices regarding her life that may turn out to be extremely harmful to both her and her daughter. However, according to the law, there is nothing I can do until some harm has definately occurred. She, although a minor, has every right to make decisions regarding her child.

Due to these situations, I have come to find myself holding the opinion that teen parents should NOT have the same unilateral rights as other parents. We limit the freedoms of our youth all the time, in regards to drinking, smoking, voting, working, etc. on the basis that young people do not possess the necessary experience or judgement to handle these activities. Doesn’t it seem odd to anyone else that we don’t do the same with something as important as parenting?

I agree. If she isn’t legally responsible for her own life, how can she be legally responsible for someone else’s?

What alternative are you proposing? Having teen parents closely supervised by social workers double-checking all her decisions re the child? Giving custody of the child to an adult until the mother/father is 18? Mandatory adoption?

Yes. Any or all, depending on the circumstances in each case. If we don’t trust a teenager with a car, then why do we trust her with a person? It’s not like she is granted any other special rights due to her status as a parent; she still has to attend school, take driver’s ed before she can drive, is only allowed to work certain hours. There is no way she can go out and support herself or her child. She doesn’t even have the legal right to marry the father of the child. But she can make (literally) life or death decisions regarding her child without interference by anyone, including her own parents?

It’s considered acceptable to restrict her ability to drive because driving isn’t a human right. It’s something that most people do, but that isn’t necessary for many people, particularly young people. Whereas it’s considered a human right to have children and it is generally considered outside the government’s powers to restrict someone’s ability to have children or raise them, barring exceptional circumstances.

It sounds a little backward, but I think I can live with this reasoning.

My first thought was the same as clairobscur’s. If your daughter isn’t fully responsible for her child, then who is? You? The state? Are you advocating taking away the children of teen parents? When you say that teen parents shouldn’t have the same rights as other parents, exactly what rights are you talking about?

Well, it’s also considered a human right to marry who you want to, and we don’t let teenagers do that.

Teenagers also don’t have a universal right to have sex with whoever they choose, but there’s still quite a difference between that and taking away their children.

Teenage women have been mothers for most of human history. We seem to have done pretty well overall. Just support her to the best of your ability.

I can see where your concerns are erleichda, and in an ideal world, I agree. If society judges that a minor isn’t responsible enough to vote for a president, or to judge if they should be drinking or not, then how can society believe that that minor has the good judgement to make decisions about the care and raising of a child.

Unfortunately, I can’t thing of a really good alternative. I suppose that all such infants could be taken away from their parents, by Child Services, but then we have to find a better home/guardian for them. In many cases, that might be a simple as awarding guardianship to a grandparent, or to the father, but there are going to be cases when that would turn out badly.

Would we make it manditory that capable grandparents take custody of the baby? Maybe a joint custody between the parents and the grandparents. But now we are talking about up to 6 guardians involved, and it could be more complicated then that, if the grandparents don’t fall neatly into 2 couples.

The other option is to make it impossible for teens to have kids. Manditory birth control, to be reversed when they reach their majority. While my SO has jokingly commented that teen-age boys should have their reproductive bits removed at a young age, and returned when they are old enough to handle them, I’m sure even he would agree that this isn’t (and shouldn’t) happen in the real world.

I’d be in favor of mandated involvement with social services for teen parents under the age of 16. Mandatory classes, regular home visits with social workers…these kinds of things. Especially if there’s benefits being doled out. I think teenager mothers shouldn’t unable to drop out of school if they’re receiving benefits. They need to be educated even more than their childless counterparts.

I admit I might be a staunch conservative about this, but I’d also be in favor of requiring foster care for babies born by children under the age of 14. When the girl becomes 16 and has demonstrated competence, she can gain custody.

That’s the rub. There really AREN’T good choices with unwanted pregnancies, and the choices are ALL worse when we are talking about a teenager. As an adoptive parent, I’m not sure I’d want my son to find out that I ended up his mother because he was functionally stolen from his birthmother.

Sometimes the choices made turn out well - whatever choice was made.

I don’t want people taking my children away from me, regardless of how good they think their reasons are. Therefore, I don’t support taking other people’s children away from them, regardless of how good I think my reasons are. About the only time I can think of when I would support it are rock-solid cases of serious abuse/neglect. The guy who tied his baby’s legs in a knot, yes. The teen mother who is on welfare and struggling to make ends meet, no. Pre-emptively taking a child away from someone who has not shown themselves to be a poor parent is anathema to me. Hundreds of millions, possibly billions, of children have been born to teenagers over the course of human history and we’re no worse off. The stripping of adolescents of their rights and responsibilities in society(anthropologically most cultures considered children adults at younger ages than modern western cultures, i.e. bar mitzvah) is something I am generally opposed to. Further infantalizing them, instead of empowering them and treating them as adults when they engage in adult activities, is something I would not get behind at all.


For what I can gather, this particular teenager was fine with the pregnancy. It’s her mother who had (and still has) misgivings. So what happens if the teenager wants the pregnancy but no-one else does?

It’s not like we’ve anything to compare against, though.

I would say teenage parenting is, overall, not that good a thing, but I can’t think of any ways of dealing with it beyond education in/avaliability of contraceptives that aren’t worse.

It also doesn’t seem fair to the grandparents involved. If the grandparents want guardianship, great. But forcing it on them is lousy. And what is the criteria for capable? One could argue that if your 15-year-old daughter has a baby, you haven’t done a great job as a parent to begin with. (I personally wouldn’t make that argument, but plenty of other people would.)

I will agree with nearly all of this, but there is one point I feel the need to interject. About the foster care… at three years old, kids have some very strong attatchments to their caregivers. It wouldn’t be fair to the child(ren) of someone who gave birth at thirteen to be raised for three years by one family, and then suddenly be whisked away to another family once the mother comes of age. (Yes, I know that life isn’t fair, and I’m sure I’ll get called out on that. But I’m sure folks can agree with me that such a drastic change can’t be a god thing for kids.)

So instead of placing the child(ren) in foster care during that timeframe, I’d rather see a stricter measure of your first proposal - involvement with social services. If the mother is going to be a mother at some point, then it’s very important for her to be as involved as possible in the childrearing proccess. I can see two ways of doing this. One is to go ahead with foster care, and have some sort of intensive visitation from the mother, much like divorce cases are usually handled, only with more “face time,” as it were. The other (and, to my mind, more problematic) way would be to let the mother keep her child(ren), and have some type of 24/7 support person; basically a safety net so that she can’t screw up in any way.

Of course, that would cost money and manpower, and I have no suggestions as to where the resources would come from. Someone far smarter than me can have a go at it.

As a former teen mother myself, I had lots of support from my family, but I am aware that lots of girls have families that won’t or can’t help out. So I do think it’s good to talk about these kinds of things, and hopefully somewhere down the line, a change for the better can be made.

Are underage boys who father children legally required to provide support for the child (in so far as they are able)? Do teenage fathers get the same parenting rights (visitation and so on) as an adult male?

Just asking.

I trust teenage mothers and their families more than I trust the government to work out a decent system for monitoring proper parenting by teen mothers.

Ah, yes. You are of course, right. Fifteen year olds often want things that are not wise - and often are so confident that they know better than anyone else that giving them advice is talking to a wall.

I think its wrong to take a child away from a parent (as mtgman says, I don’t want anyone taking my children from me - also my mother in law had a non-voluntary adoption of a child - it isn’t a good thing). Its also wrong to expect the grandparents to indefinitely care for the grandchild, to expect society to step in to fund the correction of a fifteen year old knowing everything, and wrong to expect the child to suffer because its mother was short sighted.