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Teenage pregnancy is a major social problem associated with many negative outcomes for the mother, child and society.  Teenage pregnancy refers to  pregnancy between the ages of 12 to 18 years. Teenage pregnancy is often associated with poverty, low self-esteem, low expectations, low educational attainment and low educational aspirations. Unfortunate, involvement of adolescents in pre-marital sex is on the increase in Nigeria. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), four (4) out of ten (10) girls get pregnant at least once before the age of 18.  There are about one million teen pregnancies each year, and about half as many birth (NCHS, 2001). Thus, the increase in teenage pregnancy is alarming. Black adolescent aged 12 to 18 experience significant high rates of teen pregnancies. However, absence of records, would not allow for figures of teen pregnancy in Nigeria.

Adolescence has been described as a phase of life beginning in biology and ending in society (Peterson, 1988).  It may be understood as the period within the life span when most of a person’s biological, cognitive, psychological and social characteristics are changing from what is typically considered child-like to what is considered adult-like (Learner & Spainer, 1980). Indeed, adolescents experience many problems, including teen pregnancy, alcohol, drug abuse, violence, school failure and eating disorders (Callalian & Stein, 2003). Specifically, teenage pre-marital childbearing is associated with a number of negative consequences for both mother and child such as lower earning and increased chances of poverty (Hofferth, 1987). It also leads to substantial public cost for income support, health care, and social services (Burt & Livy, 1987).


Furthermore, being sexually active is the first step to potential pregnancy and parenthood. A weak association has been found between sexual maturity and earlier dating and intercourse (Cubis, Lewin & Raphael, 1985), which suggests the influence of biological factors. However, the determinants of sexual behavior are complex in our biological, and psychological makeup. That is why we cannot explain sexual behavior, based on biological or psychological term alone as cultural and economics social situation exposes individuals into sexual behavior. Moore and Rosenthal (1993) provided a comprehensive list of factors shaping young people’s sexual views and practices. Some of the determinants of sexual behavior include family influences, peer influence, youth culture and media, socio-economic factors, schools and educational/academic performance.  Parents who held strong traditional views about premarital sex and communicated these to their daughters were the only group able to influence their children’s sexual behavior (Moore & Rosenthal, 1993). Relationship within the family is also significant. It has been suggested that there is a link between the young people’s satisfaction with their child-mother relationship and the likelihood of them being sexually experienced (Jaccard, Dittus & Gordan1996).

Studies shows that lack of attentive and nurturing parents was linked to early sexual activity while a stable family environment was associated with later initiation of sexual intercourse (White beck, Hoyt, Miller & Kao, 1992). Parents also may be important in influencing young people’s use of contraception. Direct discussion about sexual behavior with teenagers and their parents were found to be most effective in year 9 and 10 (Baker, 2007). In later high school years and beyond, peer approval was more influential (Treboux & Bush-Rossnagel, 1995). Peer association has been indicated as one of the strongest predictors of adolescent sexual behavior (Diblasio & Benda, 1994). Youths that do not engage in sex tend to have friends who abstain. Males, reported more pressure from peers to be sexually active while females report more pressure from partners (Ponzett, 1997). Thus, the influence of peers appears to differ between genders, for example the use of contraception by young women, but not men, was found to be influenced by peer attitudes (Thompson & Spanier, 1978). Similarly, Udry (1985) reported that the sexual activity of girls was influenced to a greater extent by their friends, in contrast to boys whose sexual activity was more related to biological factors. Moore and Roseental (1993) pointed out that in western societies the prolonged transition to adulthood has given rise to a distinct youth culture. This culture has a considerable impact on teenagers’ opinions and behavior, with many young people conforming to particular leisure activities as well as sexual attitudes and behavior. The major influences on this culture are mass-media. According to Mccabe (1995), the media’s message is that adolescents can be sexually experienced.

Schools have an important role in offering appropriate information to young people about sex. However, young people do not rely on such information. They do not receive it as credible (Moore & Rosenthal, 1993). They prefer to relay on parents or peers. Thus, lack of trust in teacher’s knowledge was identified as a major reason for teenager’s doubt about this information (Goldma, 1982). Mccabe (1990) suggested that social class had no impact on sexual activity. However, there is evidence in Australian research of a correlation between employment status and sexual experience (Cubis, Lewin & Raphael, 1989). From the surveyed group of sexually experienced adolescents in the Newcastle area, 53% were unemployed, compared to 125 at school, 17% at a tertiary institution and 28% who were working (Cubis, et al., 1985). Also, Brewster (1994), found that teenager females living in a socio-economically disadvantage urban environment were more likely to be sexually experienced.

            A link has been established between sexual activity and lower academic performance. Research by Ohannessian and Crocket (1993), suggest that academic achievement by girls predicted postponed sexual activity. Thus, educational achievement and clear goals have been identified as impacting on sexual activity with high achievers having lower rate of pre-marital sex among both males and females (Moore Rosenthal, 1993). On the other hand, children’s characteristics influence the parenting style they receive (Samson &Rothbert, 1995). These characteristics include such variables as age (Fagot Kavanagh, 1993), gender (Kerig, Cowan & Cowan, 1993) and temperament (for instance, aggressiveness, passivity, affection, moodiness, and negativity) (Rothbart, 1995). Some children may be simply more difficult to rear than others (Rubin, Stewart & Chen, 1995).

Parenting style is described as normal variations in parenting (Baumrind, 1991) which are categorized under three major forms: the authoritarian, the authoritative or democratic, and the permissive or laissez-faire or self indulgence or uninvolving (Baumrind, 1991). The authoritarian parenting style constitutes of parents who are often strict and harsh (Groh, 2006). The authoritarian parent attempts to shape, control, and evaluate a child’s behavior in accordance with traditional and absolute values and standard of conduct. Obedience is stressed, verbal give and take is discouraged, and punitive, forceful discipline   is preferred. More commonly, parents using this style of parenting were said to be operating from the rejecting-demanding dimension. The offspring of such authoritarian parents tended to be discontented, withdrawn, and distrustful. Authoritative parents according to Groh (2006) are flexible and responsive to the child’s need but still enforce reasonable standards of conduct. The authoritative parents provide firm direction for a child’s overall activities but give the child considerable freedom within reasonable limits. The parent provides reasons for given policies and engages in verbal give-and take with the child. Meanwhile they respond to the child’s wishes and needs. Parental control is not rigid, punitive, intrusive, or unnecessarily restrictive. Authoritative parenting was often associated with self-reliant, self-controlled, explorative, and contented children. In later researches, Baumrind (1991, 1994 and 1996) found that an authoritative parenting style is especially helpful when parenting adolescents. While permissive or laissez-faire parents are those who impose few restrictions, rules or limits on their children, permissive parents seek to provide a non punitive, accepting, and affirmative environment in which the children regulate their own behavior as much as possible. The parents make few demands on the children for household responsibility or orderly behavior. The least self- reliant, exploration, and self- controlled children were those with permissive parents.

Reports had shown that authoritarian parenting styles has negative connotation in literature because of the negative behavior outcomes of adolescents.  Some researchers found that authoritative parenting style has more positive effects on the adolescent behavior. For example, Groh and Letti (2006) reported that permissive or laissez faire parenting occurs without well defined or clear cut goals and such parents play a passive role in the rearing of children. Utti (2006), in a research conducted on relationship between parenting styles and students academic achievement found that laissez faire parenting had more negative effects on the students’ academic achievement. Several researchers had shown that adolescents from laissez-faire parenting are more prone to delinquent behaviors and health problems than those from the other forms of parenting homes. Clearly, disciplinary encounters between parents and their children provide a crucial context in which children learn strategies for controlling themselves and for controlling others. So parents who model competent strategies are more likely to have children who also are socially competent (Kochanska, 1995).  Researchers (Umukoro, 1997, 1977; Edah, 2006; Eke, 2004; Chen-Chi, 2005) found that adolescents who are exposed to higher level of warmth, induction and monitoring parenting background would less likely be delinquents.

Furthermore, the concept of locus of control and Bandura’s (1977) psychological construct of self-efficacy, will also aid an understanding of teenage pregnancy. Rotter’s (1950) locus of control is a concept describing whether  people feels that control of his/her life rests in his/her own hands (internal  locus of control) or in the hands  of others (external  locus of control). The underlying question regarding locus of control is whether one controls one’s life or does something else (like a God) control it? This simple idea has profound significance as it influences people’s belief, feeling, thinking, attitude and behavior. According to Rotter, the likelihood that people will engage in a particular behavior is largely determined by their perception of whether that action will have an effect. Therefore, one should not be surprised to find that people who believe they can control most situations act differently from those who belief they cannot do so. It is not surprising, either that psychologists working in education, psychotherapy, industrial setting and other applied areas have found the locus of control concept so useful.

According to Bandura (1977), it has been found that a strong sense of personal self efficacy is related to better health, higher achievement and more social integration. Self-efficacy is a concept describing people’s beliefs about whether they can execute the behaviours necessary to control important events in their life. Thus, behavioural change is determined by a personal sense of performance control outcomes. If people believe that they can take action to solve a problem instrumentally they become more inclined to do so and feel more committed to this decision. Thus, a person who believes in being able to cause an event can conduct a more active and self-determined life course. Thus, “can do” cognition mirrors a sense of control over one’s environment. It reflects the belief of being able to master challenging demands by means of adaptive action. It can also be regarded as an optimistic view of one’s capacity to deal with stress.      Self-efficacy makes a difference in how people feel, think and act. In terms of feeling, a low sense of self-efficacy is associated with depression, anxiety, and helplessness. Such individuals also have low self-esteem and harbor pessimistic thought about their accomplishment and personal development. In terms of thinking, a strong sense of competence facilitates cognitive processes and high academic performance. Self-efficacy levels can enhance or impede the motivation to act. Hence, individuals with high self-efficacy choose to perform more challenging tasks. They set themselves higher goals and stick to them (Latham, 1990).

Thus, actions are pre-shaped in thought and people anticipate either optimistic or pessimistic scenarios in line with their level of self-efficacy. In essence, once an action has been taken, high self-efficacious persons invest more effort and persist longer than those with low self-efficacy. When setbacks occur, the former recover more quickly and maintain the commitment to their goals. Self-efficacy also allows people to select challenging setting, explore their environment, or create new situations. Finally, self-efficacy has been found to impact the coping ability, and behaviors of individuals (Bandura, 1994).


Despite a decline in overall birth rate, there is evidence to suggest that since the mid 1980’s, rates of teenage pregnancy and parenthood have increased (NCHS,2001).   These trends have been the focus of recent public health concern, with discussions centering on the provision of free access to contraceptives and improved sex education as a means of reducing rates of teenage pregnancy. Indeed, there is good evidence to support these concerns from studies showing that early motherhood significantly constrains a woman’s life opportunities and adversely affects the development of her children. Specifically, it has been well documented that an early transition to parenthood has far reaching physical, social and emotional consequences for young women, including an increased risk of antenatal complications and mortality, failure to complete schooling, socio-economic disadvantage, welfare dependence, and less competent parenting.

However, many teenage girls go several years without being pregnant. What are the personal characteristics that make some young adolescents successful in avoiding getting pregnant in spite of the storm and excitement of period of adolescence? According to Rotter (1966), the likelihood that people will engage in a particular behavior is largely determined by their perception of whether that action will have an effect. Therefore, it can be found that people who believe they can control most situations act differently from those who believe they cannot do so (locus of control). Also, the style of parenting in the family can stand as a determinant of teenage pregnancy. Knowledge of the life processes that place teens at risk of an early pregnancy and premature transition to parenthood is central to the development of more effective pregnancy prevention programs.            Therefore, this study attempted to answer the following questions:

  • Will parenting style significantly predict teenage pregnancy?
  • Will locus of control significantly predict teenage pregnancy?
  • Will self-efficacy significantly predict teenage pregnancy?





The purpose of the study is to investigate and establish whether parenting style, locus of control and self-efficacy play a role in teenage pregnancy. Specifically, the study will examine whether:

  1. Parenting style will significantly predict teenage pregnancy?
  2. Locus of control will significantly predict teenage pregnancy?
  3. Self-efficacy will significantly predict teenage pregnancy?



Parenting style: This construct represents the standard strategies that parents use in their child rearing as measured by Parenting Style Inventory II (Darling & Toyokawa, 1997). Parenting styles occur in three dimensions: authoritative, authoritarian and permissive parenting styles.

Authoritarian parenting style: This is the parents who attempt to shape, control, and evaluate a child’s behavior in accordance with traditional and absolute values and standard of conduct. Obedience is stressed, verbal give and take is discouraged, and punitive, forceful discipline   is preferred.

Authoritative parenting style: This is used to describe parents who are flexible and responsive to the child’s need but still enforce reasonable standards of conduct. The authoritative parents provide firm direction for a child’s overall activities but give the child considerable freedom within reasonable limits.

Permissive parenting style: It refers to the parents who impose few restrictions, rules or limits on their children and seek to provide a non punitive, accepting, and affirmative environment in which the children regulate their own behavior as much as possible.

Locus of control: Locus of control is whether an individual’s outcome is dependent on his/her action ability (internal control) or outside/beyond their control (external control) as measured by Locus of Control Behaviour Scale (Craig, Franklin & Andrews, 1984).

Self-efficacy: This is a person’s beliefs about his or her ability to attain particular goals or achieve personal outcomes as measured by the New General Self-efficacy Scale (Chen, Gully & Eden, 2001).

Teenage pregnancy: In this study, teenage pregnancy is determined using the age at which an adolescent female became pregnant as indicated by the participant on the questionnaire.


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