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Mediating Morality: The Politics of Teen Pregnancy in the Post-Welfare Era
by Clare Daniel
University of Massachusetts Press, 2017
Paper: 978-1-62534-267-6 | eISBN: 978-1-61376-509-8
Library of Congress Classification RG556.5.D37 2017
Dewey Decimal Classification 618.200835

The approach the United States has taken to addressing teen pregnancy—a ubiquitous concern in teen education and perennial topic in popular culture—has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Specifically since the radical overhaul of welfare policy in 1996, Clare Daniel argues, teen pregnancy, previously regarded as a social problem requiring public solutions, is seen as an individual failure on the part of the teens involved.

Daniel investigates coordinated teen pregnancy prevention efforts within federal political discourse, along with public policy, popular culture, national advocacy, and local initiatives, revealing the evidence of this transformation. In the 1970s and 1980s, political leaders from both parties used teen pregnancy to strengthen their attacks on racialized impoverished communities. With a new welfare policy in 1996 that rhetoric moved toward blaming teen pregnancy—seemingly in a race- and class-neutral way—on the teens who engaged in sex prematurely and irresponsibly. Daniel effectively illustrates that the construction of teen pregnancy as an individual's problem has been a key component in a neoliberal agenda that frees the government from the responsibility of addressing systemic problems of poverty, lack of access to education, ongoing structural racism, and more.

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