Jack Handey (b. February 25,1949), American humorist once said: “I believe in making the world safe for our children, but not our children's children, because I don't think children should be having sex.”
The world woke to the sensational news headlines “DAD AT 13” in the British tabloid The Sun on Black Friday, February 13.
Alfie Patten from Hailsham, East Sussex, whose voice has not yet broken, admitted he had not thought about how he and his 15-year-old girlfriend Chantelle Steadman, would support their baby daughter Maisie Roxanne - who was born five days earlier - but vowed to be a good father.
The most troubling of the saturation coverage to date for me on this issue was Alfie’s response to a journalist’s innocuous question of how he would manage financially. Alfie’s unbelievable but innocently plausible reply of “What’s financially?” further highlights inherent problems associated with underage pregnancy.
The lucid television coverage of the giggle and wry grin offered by Chantelle on hearing Alfie’s naive response further exacerbates the broader problems associated with children having children without the wisdom that is only afforded parents through the accumulation of age.
If poor little Alfie doesn’t know the meaning of the word “financially” then what hope is there of him comprehending the potential concerns that could arise for his daughter: sleeping problems; reflux; teething; nappy rash; tantrums, and how to reduce the risk of cot death. The image of little 13-year-old Alfie walking the floor in the dead of night trying to calm his crying daughter Maisie Roxanne from unexplained discomfort is a disturbing thought.
And what chances are there that little Alfie will fulfil his responsibility to Chantelle by providing support, understanding, and care when she endures excruciating back and neck aches, incontinence, bowel problems, sore breasts, and a myriad of other post natal ailments that she will inevitably experience.
The coming weeks will provide many new twists to this intriguing story that has already thrown up some surprises: several teenagers from the neighbourhood have also publicly claimed to be the father of baby Maisie Roxanne; and Nicola Patten, Alfie’s mother, has been charged with “failing to send a child (Alfie) to school”.
In Australia the teenage fertility rate has significantly decreased in the last three decades (55.5 births per 1,000 women in 1971 compared to 16 births per 1,000 women in 2005).
However the most amazing statistic in my home state, based on Queensland Health data from 2005, reveals the fertility rate for Indigenous mothers aged 15-19 was 67 babies per 1,000 compared to 20.5 per 1,000 for “mainstream” mothers of the same age group.
From Queensland Health’s data the group deemed to be most at risk of falling into the category of teenage pregnancy includes those who are from family situations with regular conflict between members; have suffered violence and sexual abuse in childhood; are in unstable housing arrangements; produce poor school performance; have poor school attendance; are from a low socioeconomic background; have a family history of teenage pregnancies; and have low maternal education and homes where fathers are absent.
The report further highlights that those young girls who have low self esteem, who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and are living in rural and remote areas are at greatest risk of falling into the category of teenage pregnancy.
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