FIGURE 8-3 Change in percentage of young women having premarital birth by age 20.

SOURCE: Demographic and Health Surveys.

his family and sometimes without the support of the girl’s family as well. Never-married adolescent mothers are much more likely than married adolescent mothers to report that their recent birth was unplanned (i.e., unwanted or mistimed). In most countries, this difference is very large—often the proportion is twice as high among unmarried mothers, half or more of whom report that the birth was unplanned in 22 of the 27 countries in Singh’s (1998) review. Many are concerned about the situation of women who make the transition to motherhood both at a young age and before marriage. If being young and unmarried places mothers at risk, the reasoning goes, then young women with both characteristics are particularly likely to have an unsuccessful transition to adulthood. For developing countries, in societies in which the levels of premarital sexual activity are moderate and on the increase, but where taboos against nonmarital motherhood remain strong, becoming a mother as an unmarried woman constitutes a barrier to successful adulthood. Whether or not becoming a mother outside marriage is a barrier to adult success in these populations is therefore a question that merits investigation by researchers and, if it is found to be so, the attention of policy makers.

In some settings, however, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, childbirth confers on teenagers the valued status of motherhood. Indeed, parenthood can be seen as an acceptable pathway to adult status in cases in which

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