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Teenage Pregnancy

Are Women Better Suited to Start Families in Their Teens?

What's the perfect age to start a family? With teen pregnancy on the rise, and MTV highlighting the epidemic, you would think that the public has had enough talk about the subject. But a British novelist has an idea that is causing a bit of a stir.

Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall and An Experiment in Love, recently told an interviewer that societal norms are preventing women from birthing babies when they are physically able – in their teens. According to Mantel:

"There is this breed of women for whom society's timetable is completely wrong . . . Having sex and having babies is what young women are about, and their instincts are suppressed in the interests of society's timetable . . . I was perfectly capable of setting up and running a home when I was 14, and if, say, it had been ordered differently, I might have thought 'Now is the time to have a couple of children and when I am 30 I will go back and I'll get my PhD . . . But society isn't yet ordered with that kind of flexibility."

If society allowed it, would you have wanted to start your family in your teens?

Photos copyright 2010 MTV

Join The Conversation
runningesq runningesq 7 years
exchequette -- without a paying job, how would you, at 14, pay for baby necessities, like diapers, baby clothes, nursery furniture, etc? How can a teenager be a "hard working spouse" when most states require children up to a certain age to be in school, and child labor laws prevent minors from working more than x hours/ week? And I doubt 100 years ago girls were "happy mothers" - they had children young because that's what was expected of them, and college education, professional careers, etc. weren't available.
chequettex chequettex 7 years
If I'd had a socially-approved opportunity to get married and become a mom as a teen, I would have started shopping for a husband when I was 10! Well, I was shopping... but you know what I mean. I've always, more than anything else, wanted to be a mom and wife - that's what I wanted as a career, and that hasn't changed in 20 years, except that at least I'm a wife now. Society isn't big on this idea - they tend to think of very young marriage as uncivilized, or, in the US, red-neck. But that's what I really wanted (and still wish I could have done)! Instead I went to college like everyone else and got a job like everyone else even though I'd much rather be working towards my longtime dream of being a mom. I think what the author is saying is that perhaps society should allow for people to marry younger and start families sooner, if they want and if they feel ready for it, because that's what our bodies want to do anyway. Obviously a girl having kids at a young age should have a mature, hard-working spouse to help care for them. With the maturity level in kids right now, there's no way that could become normal here in the US, but hundreds of years ago it was true that young girls could be happy mothers.
EmilieLove EmilieLove 7 years
Maybe biologically you're more ready, but not in any other way. Maybe SHE was ready to set up and run a home at age 14, but every single other teenager I know/knew (including myself) was/is not. Yes, women are more fertile when they're younger, but what kind of life would that baby have, considering the fact that its mother probably wouldn't be able to finish high school?
runningesq runningesq 7 years
Who, exactly, is going to pay for these babies that teenagers are having? Because, you know, a couple babysitting gigs a week isn't going to pay for diapers, child care, wipes, etc. Babies don't come cheap. Perhaps physically it's the perfect time to start a family, but the vast majority of teens are nowhere near emotional, financial, and mental readiness. And Zivanod, I applaud your cousin, but her achieverments are rare. Very few teen moms graduate high school -- let alone go on to college and graduate school.
Sammy-Jay Sammy-Jay 7 years
It's interesting to think about. It is nature, but religious things can help calm those numbers down. Maturity wise, many teens aren't ready. But in other parts of their minds, they are prepared. Financially, they cannot support themselves. So ups and downs is what it's all about.
Siepe Siepe 7 years
I think that first comes the career, and then when you are realized (and you're 30s) come the children.
Pistil Pistil 7 years
Most kids cannot financially support themselves, let alone another human being. Most kids are not in mature, stable relationships. There are so many factors to consider before PLANNING a family, other than being physically capable of bearing children.
amandachalynn amandachalynn 7 years
I personally think your 20's are perfect. You're still in peak physical condition, with a lot of energy and more maturity than a teen. Then you still have plenty of time when kids are older to go back to school and start a career. My son is 4, and I am taking 2 classes per semester to get my prerequisites done. This way when he starts school full time I can start taking the intense courses I need to get a degree. However, whats perfect for one may not be for another. I think if we all stopped judging other moms and we were all supportive of each other, including teen moms, older moms, adoptive and foster moms, no one would feel alone or like their not good enough.
CandaceW CandaceW 7 years
Biologically they probably are but until society is prepping teens for that step mentally, I think they should stick to the current timetable and wait until they have the maturity to raise a child. I'm sure that age varies from person to person but for myself, it didn't hit until about age 28.
Zivanod Zivanod 7 years
That's kind of funny and probably a bit true. I look at my cousin who had her first when she was 17. She is now going to law school. Her oldest is 15 and doesn't need her around all the time. It also took her no time to get preganant. I assume she wasn't trying, while it took my family two years to get pregnant and we started while still in our twenties.
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