Anthropology, Department of



Tina Brown

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Published in Nebraska Anthropologist Vol. 15 (1999-2000). Copyright © Tina Brown; published by The University of Nebraska-Lincoln AnthroGroup.


Teen pregnancy (broadened to "premarital pregnancy" for research purposes) was investigated cross-culturally. Using the electronic Human Relations Area Files and literature review, attitudes toward premarital pregnancy, the incidence of premarital pregnancies, and outcomes of premarital pregnancies were compared in "African" and "Eurasian" social systems (as defined by Goody, 1976). Despite considerahle variance, there were no significant differences in approval or disapproval of premarital sex or pregnancy in African and Eurasian systems. There was no difference in incidence rates of premarital pregnancy in African and Eurasian systems; however. not taking marital status into consideration. developing countries have higher rates of adolescent childbearing than developed countries. Outcomes (forced marriage, illegitimate children, abortion, infanticide, or adoption) also did not vary significantly in African versus Eurasian systems. African systems were slightly more likely to employ forced marriages or incorporate illegitimate children into the king roup as a result, and paternity certainty was the primary concern. Eurasian systems were slightly more likely to employ adoption. and resources (or lack of them) motivated outcome decisions. Attitudes. incidence, and outcomes of premarital pregnancy were also compared in historical and modern Eurasian/industrialized countries in relation to growing female independence. Incidence rates reflect decreasing disapproval of premarital pregnancy until recent years in which education and birth control have reversed the trend. Changes in preferred strategies -- an increasing number of illegitimate children and single-parent households - have led to the increasedfocus on teen pregnancy as a societal issue.

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