Pre-marital pregnancy is a serious problem due to its relationship with youths’ responsibility for individual sexuality, parenting and current trends in permissive sexual morality. All these have led people into questioning its increase in our society. It brings an avalanche of problems to the teenagers, parents and the society. Having seen some of the causes and consequences of unmarried pregnancy on all concerned in this study, it was discovered that unmarried mothers were not happy due to the attendant problems attached to the issue. The society on the other hand frowns at them, and looks at such occurrence with contempt. Obeagu community in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State – Nigeria is the case study for this research. In the course of the research, books, journals, and magazines were reviewed in an attempt to unravel the nature, extent, causes and consequences of this problem. Research questions were also analyzed to ascertain the facts of some causes and consequences of the problem. The figures gotten were plotted in tables and the percentages worked out after each table a comprehensive analysis followed. Recommendations were also made as means of curbing the social ill-pre-marital pregnancy.
1.0 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Pre-marital pregnancy has attained terrifying dimension that it has become a social problem facing the Nigerian society. It is so undesirable that people should not only disapprove it verbally, but something should be done to combat it.Pre-marital pregnancy as a cankerworm has eaten deep into the fabric of most youths. Its problems, most prevalent of which is the resultant population increase that is growing geometrically out of the proportion, have undoubtedly continued to place unbearable burden on the individual, the family, the community and the entire society. For instance, it begets the much taunted illegitimate child who is often denied quality education and other social opportunities of legitimate inheritance consequently, it places upon him/her the status of a social nuisance.
As such these have remained serious cogs in wheel of national development and economic progress till today. Delamount (1980), said that pregnancy out of wedlock are abnormal and undesirable. The desire to have a baby by an unmarried mother is selfish and needs explanation to why she should. Hoftman (1997), observed that unmarried mothers have fewer friends, belong to fewer organisations and participate in fewer recreational activities than the married women. He maintained that the girls in question are looked down because they have made themselves social misfits. There is then obvious need for a proper understanding of what pregnancy and pre-marital pregnancy denote
The term pregnancy naturally connotes good tidings and fortune in all universe; however, that is only when it is applied in a rightful way. Thus, when a married woman becomes pregnant, both the woman and her relations and indeed the entire society rejoices greatly. It is a most deserving, praising and rewarding event, a symbol of future happiness, better days, and practically the actual consummation of a legitimate marriage. Furthermore, it is ethically sanctioned by Christians as the Holy Book, the Bible, enunciates in Genesis “God created man in his own image, male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and he said to them, “Go ye into the world be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. (Refer to Genesis 1: 27, 28).
However, when the word “pre-marital comes before pregnancy” it assumably becomes a misfortune, an unreconcilable insult, an undesirable evil; usually not welcomed by the family, the community and even the entire society. This is because of its perceived and manifest social and other related problems. In light of this, pre-marital pregnancy is an illegal pregnancy happening before marriage (in this study, unmarried pregnancy is used to refer to pregnancy among girls between twelve and eighteen (12 – 18) years of age (children). At this point, it is worthy to note that the continued high rate of pre-martial pregnancy in Nigeria is traceable to post Nigerian civil-war due to low socio-economic status of people as noted by Onakeko M.O. et al (1996); in African Journal of Medical Sciences. Pre-marital pregnancy has been extensively written on in medical journals, as it has become part of everyday occurrence. Specifically, many families, schools (especially secondary), villages, and cities have often witnessed cases of pre-marital pregnancy. It is regrettable therefore, that these embarrassing occurrences happen at a period in our national life when the campaign for population control and against Human Immuno-deficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is rife and other related sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea, syphilis among others.
Nowadays however, with increasing awareness and influence of foreign culture, a new trend of social morality seems to have taken place, as young girls increasingly tend to regard sexual dealings as their own private affairs and not any other persons’ business. Youngsters see sexual intercourse as their right, which nobody has any locus standing to interfere with, despite the fact that most of them are hardly aware of the negative implications of early involvement in the act. Thus as these sexual excesses continue amidst the initial momentary pleasure and sexual fulfilment, these young girls often find themselves entrapped by the reality of all that are at stake; pregnancy and abandonmen
From a closer perspective, one could summarily say that the youths of today are constantly bombarded with sexuality through advertisement, music, x-rated movies and television to mention a few. Many of the girls offer sex as a gift in their bargaining for the attention of young men. The picture even gets darker when you consider the results of a 1993 study of school-age-mothers in California; a state in United States of America. It turned out that two-third of the girls had become pregnant, not by teenage boyfriends but by men over thirty (30) years of age! In fact, some studies indicate that many unmarried mothers are victims of statutory rape or even child abuse. Such widespread exploitation reveals how sick and depraved modern society such as Nigeria has become.
The aforementioned situation has led the researcher to attempt a study on the problems of pre-marital pregnancy with the aim of finding out thosefactors that promote it, as well as proffer solutions to abate it or through which it could be considerably reduced. This is by educating readers on the “whys” and “hows” of the issue. This will assure a sustained future for the parents, society and our young girls. To achieve this, Obeagu, community in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi in Nigeria was selected as a case study. This community was purposefully chosen to expose the ills that have gradually made the youths of modern Nigeria particularly the girls endangered species where rural communities once known for moral sanctity and excellence have lost their ethical values to the sex scourge.
CAUSES OF PRE-MARITAL PREGNANCY IN NIGERIAN SOCIETY
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The major problems to be addressed in this research project are the causes and consequences of pre-marital pregnancy as embedded in socioeconomic and religious spheres. Pre-marital pregnancy also known as unmarried motherhood is a universal phenomenon, which exists in allsocieties of the world, which develops and legalises social institutions that gave rise to the family.
Based on the above statement, it is pertinent that we state some of the causes of pre-marital pregnancy. According to Davis (1983), most of the causes associated with teenage pregnancies are now thought to be related to the low mentality of youngsters and bad home condition. He also observed that the mothers did not practice use of contraceptive or they did practice it inefficiently.
According to Simon (2003), African illegitimate rate is by far the greatest due to none acceptance of contraceptive and the general disapproval of abortion. Other important contributing factors according to him, include the late marrying age, uneven sex habits, poverty, and the excessive prominence given to sex in the contemporary European culture. In view of this Ogenyi (2004), explained that, as it relates to lack of proper socialisation and poverty, that children who are not taken good care of by their parents indulge themselves in pre-marital sex. This is because if you have a grown up daughter and you cannot provide her with some of her necessary needs she will be out of control and try anything possible to “meet” up with other girls in town because girls these days spend a lot of money on clothes and cosmetics
Going further, Adenyi (1968), maintains that a young girl who sets out to have a high time smoking or taking drugs may find herself pregnant without having had the chance to consider that possibility before hand. In view of the above, pre-marital pregnancy as a problem has been so widespread in Obeagu community that people are alarmingly questioning the trend and departure from what it used to be. It has not only crippled the teenagers but also affected many families and rendered children fatherless. Meanwhile, parents in Obeagu town, like most other communities in Nigeria discourage the illegitimate child, the product of pre-marital pregnancy. The child out of wedlock is often denied inheritance rights, social amenities and welfare including adequate education. Legally, the child is not well protected by the traditions and customary practices, as he/she is largely disregarded in matters of property inheritance. All in all, the child faces more or less social ostracism in that he/she is scorned and looked down as a “bastard” and consequently a social misfit and outcast.
This situation indeed poses a serious problem to the Obeagu community and the entire society in multifarious ways. A society with “fatherless” children is very likely to face various hardships as regarding catering for the welfare of such children. For instance where a child has no visible father to check his or her juvenile excesses, he or she is likely in the end to be delinquent, and that indeed poses a great threat to the society in which he or she lives. Pre-marital pregnancy is a problem for the females in Obeagu community. Every female is expected to be married before getting pregnant. Where the contrary becomes the case, the female involved is looked down with scorn and disapproval. She is seen as having committed a social misfit. She therefore, undergoes the traumatic and threatening pregnancy condition without a husband to support and cater for her.
These unmarried pregnant girls usually range from twelve to eighteen (12 – 18) years of age. At this tender age, they are usually considered to be immature in their sense of reasoning, physical development and socio-economic capacity to maintain themselves and their expected children. At this range of age, they are only fit to be in school. The causes of pre-marital or unwanted pregnancy, although had been explored at different times by several social researchers but is yet to be loudly stated and investigated within the cultural milieu of Obeagu. Above all, ways of curbing or remedying the problem have not been totally and exhaustively articulated.
It is against this backdrop that the escalation for pre-marital pregnancy and its disturbing consequences the most fatal of which is death, has become distressing. Never in the history of societies has there been the astonishing occurrence of pre-marital pregnancy. Every passing day, new entries are made in this catalogue of unmarried teenagers getting pregnant. This study will therefore concern itself with the reason for or causes of pre-marital pregnancy based on the findings from the researcher’s chosen area. In the same vein, the study will in modest way attempt to proffer solutions and remedies to the problem, with a view to curtailing its future occurrence.
CAUSES OF PRE-MARITAL PREGNANCY IN NIGERIAN SOCIETY
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