Adolescent pregnancy as a public policy issue
The Social Control of Sexuality in Women's Adolescence
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Constance A. Nathanson
Eliot Freidson Outstanding Book in Medical Sociology, American Sociological Association, 1993
Basing her work on the premise that sexuality is molded by both history and culture, Constance Nathanson analyzes the emergence of adolescent pregnancy as a public policy issue. Pregnant teenagers have received much attention from scholars, public officials, and the popular press. The author focuses on this public response: on the lay advocates, reformers, politicians, judges, physicians, professors, social workers, and journalists who have proposed solutions to the problem posed to American society by the sexuality of single adolescent women. Throughout her study, she examines how Americans think about and handle deviant behavior and social change and she considers the relationship between public outcry about sexually active adolescent women and more general beliefs about the deterioration of American society and its values.
This is a book about how social problems are defined and how various groups mobilize to remedy them. Since there is little consensus on where the teenage pregnancy "problem" lies, how it should be resolved, and with whom the responsibility of resolving it should rest, Nathansonís purpose is to understand both the recent emergence of "adolescent pregnancy" as a public problem and the conflicts that have surrounded it by addressing these questions within a broad sociological and historical perspective. She explores how teenage pregnancyonce associated with welfare (i.e. minority) motherswas defined as a problem and funded as a program only after it became visible in white middle-class daughters. Demographic, social, and political forces that have contributed to the late twentieth century definition of young womenís sexuality as a significant social problem are examined and placed in the context of longer-term changes in the social construction of female adolescence.
Dangerous Passage not only contributes to the understanding of current policies in the area of adolescent pregnancy, it investigates the processes of social control as they are applied to womenís private sexual and reproductive behavior.
"Nathanson's explanation is a complex and nuanced one that...explore[s] the organization of perspectives about teenage pregnancy and the political uses to which those constructions have been put.... Her discussion of sexual visibility and concealment is brilliant.... This should be required reading for policy makers and advocates in the area of family planning and human services."
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Private Behavior as a Public Problem
Part III: American Women's Adolescence in Historical Context
Part IV: Aspects of the Contemporary Scene
Part V: Conclusion
Constance A. Nathanson is a Professor in the Department of Population Dynamics at the johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health and is Director of the Hopkins Population Center.
In the series
Health, Society, and Policy, edited by Sheryl Ruzek and Irving Kenneth Zola.
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Health, Society and Policy, edited by Sheryl Ruzek and Irving Kenneth Zola, takes a critical stance with regard to health policy and medical practice, ranging broadly in subject matter. Backlist titles include books on the legal and professional status of midwifery, the experience and regulation of kidney transplants, the evolution of federal law on architectural access, and a political/ethical argument for making the community responsible for universal access to health care.