1st Edition

'Adolescence', Pregnancy and Abortion Constructing a Threat of Degeneration

By Catriona I. Macleod Copyright 2010
    184 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    184 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Winner of the Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor's Book Award 2012!

    Winner of the 2011 Distinguished Publication Award of the Association for Women in Psychology!

    Why, despite evidence to the contrary, does the narrative of the negative consequences of teenage pregnancy, abortion and childbearing persist? This book argues that the negativity surrounding early reproduction is underpinned by a particular understanding of adolescence. It traces the invention of "adolescence" and the imaginary wall that the notion constructs between young people and adults. Macleod examines the entrenched status of "adolescence" within a colonialist discourse that equates development of the individual with the development of civilisation, and the consequent threat of degeneration that "adolescence" implies.

    Many important issues are explored, such as the invention of teenage pregnancy and abortion as a social problem; issues of race, culture and tradition in relation to teenage pregnancy; and health service provider practices, specifically in relation to managing risk. In the final chapter, an argument is made for a shift from the signifier "teenage pregnancy" to "unwanted pregnancy".

    Using data gathered from studies worldwide, this book highlights central issues in the global debate concerning teenage pregnancy. It is ideal for academics, and students of health psychology, women’s studies, nursing and sociology, as well as practitioners in the fields of youth and social work, medicine and counselling.

    1. Setting the Scene. 2. Adolescence as Transition? 3. Conundrums: Sex Education, "Teenage Pregnancy", and Decision-Making in the Context of Abortion. 4. The Invention of the "Social Problem" of Teenage Pregnancy. 5. Young Women and Abortion: The New Social Problem. 6. Othering: Race, Culture and "Teenage Pregnancy"/Abortion. 7. Managing the Threat of Degeneration. 8. Summary and Conclusions: Where to From Here?


    Catriona Macleod is Professor of Psychology at Rhodes University, South Africa. She has written extensively in national and international journals in the areas of teenage pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, methodological issues, feminist theory, and postcolonialism and Psychology.

    "Drawing on the theoretical perspective of social constructionism, this book rocks the foundations on which public health specialists and national and local authorities base their strategies to address teenage pregnancy and the sexual health and well-being of young people. ... This book provides an extremely competent and well-researched critique of taken-for-granted mainstream approaches to teenage pregnancy and abortion. It serves as a great example of a constructionist approach for undergraduate and postgraduate students of psychology alike as well as essential reading for professionals and academics from a range of fields and backgrounds with an interest in public health, sexual health and youth services and support." - Katherine E. Brown, Coventry University, UK, in Sex Education 

    "Clearly written, free from excessive jargon and well signposted, Macleod's book is accessible and appropriate for use by under- and post-graduates in the social sciences, public health, social policy and nursing. ... [The book] might also appeal to the non-academic and/or practitioner reader who is interested in early pregnancy and motherhood in South Africa." - Lisa Arai, Teesside University, UK, in Sex Roles

    "Macleod does not deny that pregnancy may be a problem for very young women but encourages us not only to rethink the taken for granted relationship between ‘teenage’ and problem pregnancy but to confront the social anxieties which surround it. The analysis is rigorous and thought provoking with important implications for theory, research, health practice and social policy." - Mary Boyle, Professor Emeritus of Clinical Psychology, University of East London, UK

    "The book is a timely contribution to debates around the ‘problems’ of adolescents in our society and teenage pregnancy in particular, and adds to a small but growing set of voices from other areas of concern about youth which question the category of adolescence itself and point to the damaging effects of its use. The style is clear and accessible; the content is scholarly, yet very readable." - Christine Stephens, Professor of Psychology, Massey University, New Zealand

    "Serving as both a compendium of her previous work but also a deepening and strengthening of her argument, this book is a solid contribution to the field of theorizing and deconstructing dominant responses to teenage pregnancy, abortion and young motherhood/parenting." - Tamara Shefer, University of the Western Cape, South Africa