Biology (and Culture) in Action

I’ve been on this kick lately about the importance of children in Hispanic culture. I’ll complete my trilogy of rants on this subject (for now) by pointing out that while the overall national rate of teen pregnancy has declined, it has actually increased among adolescent Latinas.

One supposed reason for this is the tremendous grip that the concept of family has upon Hispanic culture. Young Latinas are apparently so baby-crazy that they just can’t wait for something as trivial as, say, a high school graduation before they get to reproducing.

Along those lines, I’ve heard the excuse that Latinas skip birth control because they believe it implies children are not important or that taking the pill means that they’ll never become mothers.

“Girls hear that they shouldn’t have kids, and they interpret it as a rejection of their goal to be a parent,” some earnest sociologist proclaims.

This rationale presupposes that a teenage Latina cannot comprehend the difference between such basic concepts as “now” and “later.” I would argue, however, that nobody is that stupid.

So what are the real reasons for the overactive ovaries of Hispanic teens? I certainly can’t answer that definitively.

I have some educated guesses however. I would argue that the importance of family and children is indeed a factor (as seen in my previous post). But there’s more to it.

Higher rates of poverty, which still afflict the Hispanic community more than other groups, are often correlated with teen pregnancies.

Old-world thinking from immigrant parents also plays a part. If mom and dad had their first kid at sixteen and cranked out twelve babies, then waiting until eighteen seems positively nun-like. The subtle, and occasionally overt message of many immigrant parents is that there is nothing wrong if little Maria gets knocked up.

And let’s not forget the influence of the Catholic Church, with its strong hold on Latino culture. Religious dogma can easily convince some pent-up adolescent that condoms are Satan’s Isotoners.

All of these reasons are not as blame-free or reassuring as the lame excuse that teen Latinas are simply confused about when to have babies. These reasons are part of the culture, and until they are changed or at least addressed, Hispanic girls will continue to answer to “mami” far too often.


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August 2008
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