When Mum's too young;Subject of the week;Personal, social, and health education

16th April 1999 at 01:00
Liz Swinden on resources that aim to cut the UK's rate of teenage pregnancy

Teenage parenthood is a bee in everyone's bonnet, not least the Government's. And with good reason. The United Kingdom has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, with around one in 30 newborns having a mother under the age of 20, compared to one in every 110 in France and one in 140 in the Netherlands.

Whatever the reasons, and they are complex, it is a matter that concerns many people. We can shortly expect to hear about government proposals for dealing with the problem in a report from the Social Exclusion Unit, which has been working with the Department of Health and the Health Education Authority. The report is expected to make strong recommendations on sex and relationships education, welfare benefits and services, and confidential sexual health and support services for teenagers.

In the meantime, two videos dealing with the realities of being a young parent have been produced to use with pupils aged 13 upwards in school or youth settings. Young parents in Ipswich and Bristol were involved in their making.

Four Carrier Bags and a Buggy is subtitled "the reality of being a young parent". After hearing from Alison and Lindsey, two young women who had children early, we are left in no doubt as to the difficulties of parenthood and the effects it can have on a young person.

The 30-minute video is divided into six sections - having a baby, coping, the cost of living, relationships, depression and looking forward. There are also some good discussion starters and activities on cards.

The sole man in the film appears only briefly, and the video places little emphasis on the father's role in parenting.

The comment from the East Anglian Daily Times, which describes the video as a "dire warning to teenagers . . . about the perils of parenting" is fairly accurate, as the experiences of both young women are so negative. But Lindsey does seem positive about her plans, which include going to college.

Realities covers similar territory but in a more sophisticated style, with dramatised sequences and good use of music, particularly the shots of Barbie's house during an episode dealing with housing difficulties. Interviews with young parents feature, but there is a wider variety of people including two young men who discuss their feelings about fatherhood.

The downside is explored, of course and the difficulties are not played down, but the women come across as positive, thoughtful and caring.

The excellent accompanying notes include background information for teachers, youth workers and other facilitators, as well as activities to use before and after showing the video.

'Four Carrier Bags and a Buggy', pound;19.95. From Red Rose Chain, 17 High Street, Tuddenham, Ipswich IP6 9BP. Tel: 01473 785750.'Realities: an insight into young parenthood', pound;35. Young Mothers Group Trust, co The Mill Youth Centre, Lower Ashley Road, Easton, Bristol BS5 0YJ. Tel: 0117 935 5639.

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