Understanding Teenage Pregnancy in the South African Context

Understanding Teenage Pregnancy in the South African Context

Reginald Botshabeng Monyai (University of South Africa, South Africa) and Kemoneilwe Momi Metsing (Gauteng Department of Education, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6108-8.ch007
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This chapter will attempt to dissect the reasons behind the high prevalence of teenage pregnancy among secondary school girls in South Africa. The causes and factors responsible for teenage pregnancy are identified as psycho-social, social, and economic, including stigmatization. The chapter takes a qualitative position, where respondents are interviewed over and above the use of questionnaires. The health belief model is used as a theoretical framework to provide better insights into to why teenagers in secondary schools fall pregnant.
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In the context of South Africa, the reasons for early pregnancy can be divided into different categories, amongst which are psychosocial factors, household factors, and economic factors. Jonas et al., (2016) add that teenage pregnancy is a multifaceted problem and has different contributing factors, among others, poverty, gender inequalities, gender-based violence, substance use and poor access to contraceptives (Jonas et al., 2016). A ‘teenage perspective’ is important in understanding what drives or makes these teenagers susceptible to early pregnancies. Psychology plays a fundamental role in the process. Amongst the factors that play a role in influencing teenage psychology include family stress, low or lack of self-esteem, pressure from peers, urge for sexual gratification, substance abuse and lack of motivation in life. These factors have been observed in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and Gauteng in South Africa.

Socio-Economic Pressure

It is a common assumption that many teens deliberately get pregnant in order to get grants and other forms of social support from the governments. This postulation is fallacious and misguided as indicated in the report released by Stats SA (Sawhill, 2014; Panday et al. 2009; Bonell, 2004; Harden, Brunton, Fletcher, & Oakley 2009; Mieder, 2012; Bunting & McAuley, 2004). A Nigerian study, however, has found that economic factors such as poverty and unemployment are responsible for individuals’ sexual behavior (Letamo, 2012). A solution to this problem should be based on a multifaceted strategy that does not rely on one assumption only.


Dealing with teen pregnancy is as important as finding out why it became an issue, to begin with, not to mention the underlying reasons. The pregnant girl should not be stigmatized; instead, she should be supported throughout this physical, psychological and emotional transformational period (Fallon, 2011; Kang, 2013; Son Hing, 2012; Smithbattle, 2013; Paranjothy, Broughton, Adappa, & Fone, 2009). It has also been noticed that while the girl is stigmatized, the society tolerates the absence of the father (Swart, 2002). This ought to stop if this problem is to be effectively contained.


Study Rationale

As mentioned earlier, previous research studies have focused on statistical data and on its emerging patterns and correlations. This study, in spite of being a descriptive analysis of the status quo, in contrast seeks to provide answers to the “why” question, the reasons for teens getting pregnant in South Africa.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Psychosocial Factors: Mental health issues that may induce stress, hostility, depression, hopelessness, and can affect a person’s physical health.

Economic Factors: Factors that are possible determinants of teenage pregnancy: among others, poverty and affordability levels of the families the teenagers are born into.

Sustainable Development Goals: These are integrated, indivisible, and universally applicable targets intended to push back the frontiers of poverty, promote good health, as well as reduce inequality among the citizens of each country.

Social Factors: Social health issues caused by external stressors like family, school, peer pressure.

Health Belief Model: A psychological model that attempts to explain and predict health behaviors, in order to understand why people are not able to avoid otherwise preventable diseases.

National Development Plan’s Vision 2030: A South African government drive feeding from the sustainable development goals to get rid of poverty and reduce societal disparities by 2030.

Teenage Pregnancy: Teenage pregnancy, also known as adolescent pregnancy, is a pregnancy in females under the age of 18.

Stigmatization: A negative attribute that causes someone to devalue or think less of the whole person. It is a deeply negative mindset and provides no value to society in general.

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