The adolescent response to pregnancy: Accepting the reality

Elsa Meyer Tansey, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The research literature on adolescent pregnancy indicates a relationship between early prenatal care and positive pregnancy outcomes, yet fewer than half of pregnant teenagers seek prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy. Although social support theory speculates that there should be a relationship between support and health outcomes, available studies do not reflect the processes by which pregnant adolescents use their social resources in making decisions about their pregnancies. This study describes the processes by which the adolescent comes to accept the reality of her pregnancy. Drawing from the social-psychological theories of illness behavior and symbolic interactionism, this study examines the symptom diagnosis and help seeking behavior of the pregnant adolescent. This approach describes how the adolescent interprets events and draws conclusions based on her social reality. Interviews were conducted with ten young women, aged 15-17, who had recently delivered a first child. Onset of prenatal care ranged from the third month to the seventh month. None were married, and all but two lived with a parent. All but one were currently in school. Initial unstructured interviews were attempted to construe the modes of expression of the young women regarding the event of pregnancy. Subsequent interviews elicited the processes of recognition and explanation of symptoms of pregnancy. Analysis revealed a consistent natural history in the subjects' experiences as they come to accept the reality of pregnancy. Symptom appraisal and definition involves noticing changes in themselves, and evaluating and attempting to find suitable explanations for these symptoms. Lay consultation from friends and family aids in identifying the symptoms and to receive suggestions for treatment. It is at this point that prenatal care is usually initiated. Finally the young women describe the integration of pregnancy into their belief systems.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Nursing|Public health

Recommended Citation

Tansey, Elsa Meyer, "The adolescent response to pregnancy: Accepting the reality" (1991). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9219869.