Adolescent Sexuality and Premature Parenthood: Role of the Black Church in Prevention

Paula Allen-Meares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The issues of sexuality and premature parenthood with the background of the Black experience in the United States are discussed. According to a 1986 study, 40% of US girls get pregnant at least once before the age of 20. In 1981, 45% of teenage pregnancies were terminated, and in 1982, 46% of girls 14-19 years old had had sexual intercourse. The gap between Black and White adolescent women regarding sexual intercourse has essentially disappeared, indicating that the underlying causes of teenage pregnancy are social not racial. The costs of adolescent childbearing are huge: in 1985 the public cost was at least 16.65 million dollars. In response to this crisis, many states have been searching for effective solutions enlisting clinics, schools, and social service agencies. The Black church has been a central institution within the Black community, in the forefront of many social changes with the ability to mobilize congregations and the community. Therefore, the cooperation of social service agencies, community groups, and the religious community could be fruitful in preventing adolescent pregnancies and childbearing. Such a venture would first require understanding the processes of adolescent development, self-esteem, socialization, relationship building, gender differences in physical and psychological changes, and moral development. A 1986 Gallup poll showed that 74% of 13-15 year old youth said that religion was one of the most important influences in their lives, indicating that they would be perceptive to moral reasoning. However, the fear of genocide was significant among the Black population (39%) when birth control and family planning programs were mentioned. This had to do with their brutal treatment in the past and coercive sterilization proposals to reduce welfare rolls. To overcome such fears and still prevent adolescent pregnancy, the Black church should organize workshops for parents and adolescents about sexual development, birth control, and the consequences of sexual activity with a view to postponing sexual activity and parenthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-142
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Social Work and Human Sexuality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 7 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Medicine


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