Teenage Pregnancy in Malaysia

Table of Content

Teenage pregnancy remains a persistent problem, evident in news articles such as “The trials of teen mothers” and “Teen probed for throwing baby from window”. Regrettably, numerous young women in this situation, lacking the emotional and mental readiness required, turn to drastic measures to abandon their infants. It is crucial to acknowledge that engaging in sexual activity without sufficient maturity frequently leads to pregnancy. Additionally, these teenagers are at a heightened risk of quitting school, creating a cycle of poverty for both themselves and their children.

Teenage pregnancy is a significant social issue in Malaysia that has caused widespread public concern. Numerous girls have reached out to the Welfare Department for assistance with their circumstances. Nevertheless, there has been a discernible decline in this problem over the past few years. Our analysis will explore various aspects and theories pertaining to this societal crisis.

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Teenage pregnancy is when a female under 20 years old becomes pregnant, usually while not married and often without planning. It mostly refers to girls aged 13 to 19 who are still underage according to the laws of their region.

Adolescence, which is usually around the age of 12 or 13, marks the beginning of a girl’s reproductive capability after her first menstrual cycle. This stage is influenced by various societal and personal aspects that can contribute to pregnancy. In less developed countries, teenage pregnancy is often accompanied by social disapproval, especially when it happens outside of wedlock. Consequently, it carries significant risks such as poverty, restricted access to education, and low literacy rates. Additionally, once a teenager becomes pregnant, she typically experiences long-lasting consequences that impede her future growth.

During ovulation, a woman’s egg is released and travels down the fallopian tube. At the same time, during sexual intercourse, a man releases millions of sperm that travel up the vagina, through the uterus, and into the fallopian tube in hopes of meeting the egg. This process is known as fertilization. In a typical pregnancy, after fertilization occurs, the egg continues its path through the fallopian tube until it reaches the woman’s uterus.

After a 1 or 3 day period in the uterus, the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining and can lead to pregnancy if nourished by maternal blood. The embryo then develops into a fetus over around 38 weeks and gets ready for childbirth. When studying teen pregnancy as a social issue, we can analyze this matter using applicable theories such as the Symbolic Interaction Approach and Structural-Functional Approach.

Why do we consider symbolic interaction and structural functional approach? The symbolic interaction approach is a theory that explains the family as a unit of interacting personalities. This theory emphasizes how people interact through symbols like words, gestures, rules, roles, and language. The symbolic interaction perspective is rooted in the development of a diverse set of symbols to understand the world (Larsson & Retires, 1993).

Meaning is derived from the interactions individuals have with their environment and with other people. These interactions are subjectively interpreted using existing symbols, and comprehending these symbols is crucial in understanding human behavior. Both the individual and larger societal processes influence each other through these interactions. Furthermore, it is through these interactions that individuals develop an understanding of not only larger social structures but also of their own self-concept. Behavior is influenced by society through the limitations imposed by societal norms and values. Similarly, behavior is also influenced by an individual’s self-concept.

The symbolic-interaction approach, credited to Max Weber (1864-1920), a German sociologist, highlights the importance of understanding a situation from the perspectives of those involved. Symbolic interactions, also known as analyzing individual human interactions within their social context, involve using various signs and symbols that carry specific meanings in society. These symbols include language, physical gestures, and clothing style.

The diversity of interpretations for symbols adds intrigue to life, as individuals utilize them to advance their social aims. Life resembles a stage, wherein people portray various roles. The structural functional approach, a theory-building framework, views society as an intricate system in which its components collaborate to foster unity and consistency. Emile Durkheim, a prominent sociologist, employed the concept of an ‘organic metaphor’ to describe society.

Druthers utilized the comparison of a human body to illustrate that society is composed of many smaller elements. Just as the body comprises separate systems (such as nervous, respiratory, and digestive) made up of organs (including the brain, lungs, and stomach), these organs are comprised of various types of cells. The entirety of an individual cannot be solely defined by one cell alone; instead, it is the collective contribution of all cells working together within organs and systems that shapes the entire person standing before you – someone who breathes, thinks, and understands this notion.

Teenage pregnancy in Malaysia is a topic of concern that is examined from multiple theoretical viewpoints. The structural-functional theory examines the broader societal factors, such as religion, coeducation, government, and mass media, that influence society. Meanwhile, the symbolic-interaction theory focuses on the smaller-scale dynamics within families, friendships, and peer groups. As teenage pregnancy becomes more common in Malaysia, it becomes crucial to comprehend its root causes.

The Star newspaper has reported an increase in teenage pregnancy cases according to the Welfare Department in Malaysia. In April 2010, there were already 111 reported instances, exceeding the totals of both 2009 (131 cases) and 2008 (107 cases). Most of these incidents involve adolescent girls who are placed at Atman Series Putter, a rehabilitation center and shelter that offers training for youth facing social problems. However, Dates Michael Chon, the head of MAC Public Seer-wises and Complaints Department, believes that the numbers provided by the Welfare Department only represent a small portion of the problem.

In the past, girls as young as 12 would get married early and face teenage pregnancy, which was considered shameful by Malaysian families. The consequences for these girls were harsh, often causing them to become confused or run away from home. Some even chose to abandon their babies after giving birth. Recently, I personally witnessed four such incidents last year and have already dealt with three more cases this year. Upon discovering their pregnancies, some teenagers opted for illicit abortions.

It is challenging to obtain this information as teenagers lack awareness of the consequences of their actions. Some mistakenly associate having intimate relationships with their boyfriends as a sign of love, possibly due to inadequate education regarding the potential impacts of their choices. However, online sources suggest that engaging in sexual activities before turning 20 years old is widely accepted and prevalent in today’s society worldwide.

In today’s modern society, teenage pregnancy is still seen as normal despite our advancements. The key distinction between past and present pregnant teenagers lies in the presence of a legal relationship. Nowadays, many teenagers engage in sexual activity without being married, leading to the occurrence of teenage pregnancy. Malaysia places significance on early marriage for various reasons, one of which is the preservation of traditional roles. These traditional roles greatly contribute to both early marriage and teenage pregnancy.

This is because, in terms of traditional culture, early marriage among teenagers can be viewed as a means to attain early pregnancy as evidence of fertility. Furthermore, for individuals from impoverished families, early marriage becomes imperative when there is no one else available to care for them during their formative years. This arises from the reality that despite Malaysia’s status as a developing nation, there are residents who experience poverty or have meager earnings. Consequently, a girl hailing from an economically disadvantaged family will likely be expected to wed someone of greater wealth in order for him to support her in the future.

The perspective of symbolic-interaction theory examines teenage pregnancy in Malaysia. This theory explores how individuals construct their reality through everyday interactions. Max Weber emphasized that people’s beliefs and values form the foundation of the social-interaction approach. In this approach, social life is influenced by the potential gains or losses from each interaction. It specifically delves into the micro-level orientation, observing social interactions within familial, friendship, and peer group dynamics.

The term family is used to describe a group of individuals who are related by blood, marriage, or cohabitation. In many societies, family is crucial for raising children and acts as the fundamental social unit. The notion of family extends beyond biological ties and encompasses shared cultural traits, marital bonds, joint economic resources, customary practices, mutual respect, and companionship. Family can be understood both literally and metaphorically and its scope has grown to include larger communities such as villages, cities, regions, and even humanity as a whole.

A nuclear family is a family group consisting of a father, mother, and their children. It differs from an extended family. Meanwhile, as per the Oxford Dictionary definition, a friend is someone you know well and like, a companion, pal, or buddy. Peer groups are informal primary groups of people who have similar or equal status and are typically of the same age. They usually socialize and interact within the social aggregate. Members of a particular peer group frequently share common interests and backgrounds, establishing bonds based on their similarities.

Despite the existence of diverse peer groups that encompass various social divisions like socioeconomic status, education level, race, creed, culture, and religion, one specific example exemplifies this diversity – Teenage Pregnancy in Malaysia. Analyzing the daily interactions within families, friends, and peer groups provides a deeper understanding of how this situation develops. As teenagers face the challenges of exploring their own sexuality and becoming more curious about relationships, they often rely on sources such as friends, peers, the internet, movies, and magazines to obtain crucial information regarding sexual matters.

Often, the information obtained is vague and tends to idealize rather than offering practical guidance, especially regarding sexual choices, which can result in issues like teenage pregnancy. Cassock. Proof Dry. Fatima Abdullah from the Centre for Psychological Studies and Human Development, JIM, stated that a recent study involving 8 pregnant young women from the local area showed that 5 of them came from broken homes, either due to divorce or the death of their fathers. This demonstrates that reduced family interaction actually contributes to the problem of teenage pregnancy in Malaysia!

Today’s youth face various sexual health issues, including teenage pregnancy. In Malaysia, studies have revealed this concern. For instance, the National Population and Family Planning Board Study on Reproductive Health and Sexuality in 1994 discovered that adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 were already involved in sexual activities, albeit at a low prevalence of under 1%. In 2004, a similar study observed a rise in the prevalence of sexual intercourse among adolescents to 2.2%, with 0.3% reporting instances of teen Ana Eden rape or semolina.

In 2006, statistics indicated that only 0.15% of births in Malaysia were from girls under the age of 15. It is widely acknowledged that early childbearing, specifically below the age of 18, carries a significantly higher risk of maternal death compared to the general population. According to the Confidential Enquiry for Maternal Deaths Report from 2005, adolescents aged between 15 and 19 accounted for 4.8% of all maternal deaths. Furthermore, since the first recorded case of HIV/AIDS in Malaysia in 1986, there has been an increase in the number of young individuals aged 13-19 who have contracted the infection.

Adolescents currently account for 1.4% of all reported cases, facing reproductive health risks due to various factors. These include a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health information, inadequate skills in managing sexual relationships, the absence of youth-friendly services for sexual and reproductive health, and peer pressure. An instance illustrating this is the 2006 National Health & Morbidity Survey which showed that merely 48% of individuals aged 15-19 possessed knowledge about HIV transmission through sex.

In 2004, the National Population and Family Planning Board conducted a study on awareness of reproductive organs. The study revealed varying levels of awareness, with percentages ranging from 47% to 59%. Moreover, the study found that HIV was known by most participants (95.5%), but only 64.1% were aware of other sexually transmitted infections. Regarding family planning methods, oral contraceptive pills were familiar to 77.4% of adolescents, while condoms were known by only 54.9%. Surprisingly, less than 10% had knowledge about other contraceptive methods. This lack of knowledge significantly contributes to Malaysia’s escalating rates of teenage pregnancy.

Dr. G.H. Borderland, former Director-General of the World Health Organization, emphasizes the significance of equipping adolescents with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary for self-care and peer support. This responsibility extends to responsible family members, friends, and peers in society. Ensuring young people can safeguard themselves from diseases, abuse, and exploitation during their sexual and reproductive journeys is vital.

The issue of teenage pregnancy in Malaysia can be studied sociologically using the Symbolic-Interaction Approach. This approach recognizes that young people have the right to access information and services promoting mutual respect and shared responsibility, without encouraging promiscuity. The high rates of teenage pregnancy in the country are influenced by interactions among family members, friends, and peer groups.

From the perspective of the structural functional approach theory, teenage pregnancy in Malaysia is a growing concern. According to a survey conducted by EUNICE in 2008, there were nearly 40,000 children born to unmarried girls aged 15 to II worldwide. In Malaysia, unwanted teenage pregnancies have become a disturbing trend, with a significant number of girls seeking help from the Welfare Department. This year alone, the department has recorded 111 cases, a dramatic increase compared to the 131 cases in 2009 and the 107 cases in 2008 (refer appendix no. ). Sadly, many cases go unreported, with some girls disappearing or running away from home, and others abandoning their newborn babies. Teenage girls can become pregnant due to various circumstances, such as long-term dating relationships, hook-ups at festivals and parties, or even as a result of rape. Regardless of the situation, all teenage pregnancies are the consequence of unprotected sexual activity, whether voluntary or involuntary.

In Malaysia, a nation that embraces its multicultural heritage and values its Asian identity, the majority of adults, including parents and teachers, avoid discussing sex and sexuality with children and students. This topic is considered taboo and unfit for discussion with young individuals. Consequently, teenagers are left to navigate their own curiosity about sexualities and laws. They often turn to their peers or rely on mass media sources such as the internet, movies, and magazines for information. Unfortunately, the information they gather is often inadequate, overly idealized, and fails to guide young people in making informed and safe decisions.

Using a structural functional approach, we can examine the issue of teenage pregnancy by considering the various social institutions involved such as religion, family, education, mass media, and government. In many societies, including Malaysia, premarital sex is frowned upon due to religious beliefs. The lack of understanding of Islamic morality often leads teenagers, even those who are well-educated, to engage in premarital sex and consequently contribute to the problem of unwanted teenage pregnancy.

Despite possessing a degree, individuals are not securing their future and are not concerned about social problems. The teaching of religious knowledge is considered more crucial than anything else. Hence, it is imperative to teach children about religion from a young age to ensure early education on its importance. This will enable them to at least comprehend the potential dangers and threats that lie ahead. These social issues are frequently linked to people with low self-esteem, individuals from impoverished families, children from broken families, as well as those with single or divorced parents.

Also, the children are exposed to abuse, violence, and family strife at home. The role of a parent is utmost important. Children should be taught to grow with timidity and perform activities together in harmony. Parents should have close travels with their children and share their problems, as well as monitor their activities to prevent involvement in negative behavior. It is astonishing that some parents are unaware of their child’s pregnancy in certain cases, indicating a lack of concern within the family. The lack of influence from the father’s role in adolescents is identified as one of the causes of these social problems.

According to studies conducted by EUNICE in 2008, fathers who are involved in the physical care of their children before the age of three are less likely to sexually abuse their own or any other child in the future. Furthermore, in Malaysian society, unmarried teenage mothers experience depression when contemplating the actions of their boyfriends, who often abandon them. Additionally, these mothers feel isolated within their own families as nobody wants to take care of someone who has given birth without any legal relationship.

The teenage mother may feel that she is a burden to others and find it challenging to move forward. Depression can result, leading to mental illness and even suicide. Low educational aspirations can also contribute to social issues for teenagers. EUNICE believes that equipping schools with a comprehensive reproductive health education program, combined with life skills, is the solution.

One strategy that should be developed is to address puberty and relationships, with a focus on exploring gender norms that influence boys’ ideas of masculinity and providing teenagers with the necessary skills to navigate safer sex if needed. It is vital to create strategies that cater to all groups of young people, as a one-size-fits-all approach will not be effective. According to the EUNICE Representative to Malaysia, Mr. Houseboys, it is important to consider that not all teenagers and young adults are enrolled in school or are single. Some may have jobs or be married, while others may live with their parents, friends, or even be homeless.

To ensure that we reach everyone, we must utilize a variety of programs and platforms. This includes the establishment of schools for pregnant teenagers and Malaysia’s introduction of its first baby hatch, where unwanted infants can be safely left with caretakers. Education is always a reliable choice, as Nelson Mandela famously proclaimed that it is the most powerful weapon for changing the world. Mass media also plays a significant role, as TIME Magazine noted that teenagers exposed to a higher amount of sexual content on TV are twice as likely to become pregnant before the age of 20 compared to those who watch less of such material.

Social networking sites can now have a greater negative impact on youth if not properly monitored, resulting in various issues. Additionally, the internet’s borderless nature makes it easier for pornographic content to be obtained. The government’s inability to locate and block such websites further exacerbates social problems, as teenagers can easily access pornographic films with just a few keystrokes in a search engine. Unlike the Hollywood movie “Juno” from 2007 which depicted a teenage pregnancy with a hopeful ending, real-life consequences for girls who become pregnant are far from positive.

Adolescent sexual behavior, which can be influenced by alcohol and drugs, is popularized by a socialite in mass media. Government laws and policies may also restrict adolescents’ access to information and services. For example, family planning may be limited to married individuals or require parental or spousal consent. Moreover, in this country, pornographic materials are readily available at low prices, making them accessible to children and teenagers as long as they have the money. These factors contribute to social problems in Malaysia.

The government should create and approve a new law with stronger penalties for child rapists, as suggested by former Prime Minister Tune Dry. Mathis Mohammad. The current law is outdated, and the current situation is much different from the past, with easily accessible pornography and explicit images. Previously, renowned lawyer Carpal Sings urged the government to modify Section 376 of the Penal Code. This amendment would ensure that child rapists are sentenced to death row, as outlined in Section 376 (2) (e) of the Penal Code. Under the current law, the punishment for raping children aged 12 years and below is imprisonment for not more than 30 years and whipping.

The government is intolerant of crime perpetrators and considers the issue of rape involving children to be serious. Additionally, teenage pregnancy has become a public concern due to an increase in unwanted teen pregnancies. According to a report by the Welfare Department in Malaysia from 2008 until April 2010, the rate of teen pregnancies has risen. The report found that several factors contribute to the occurrence of teen pregnancies, suggesting that it is not solely a coincidence.

All parties, such as family, the education system, and the government, tend to blame young people in these situations. However, have they ever considered their own responsibility in addressing the issue? It is clear that teen pregnancy is a problem that affects not only individuals but also society as a whole. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the root causes of this failure on a larger scale. Many of us agree that the family institution should be a place where children are taught to be responsible towards themselves, their families, and society.

Indirectly, informal education guides individuals to better themselves. However, discussing sex-related topics remains conservative in Malaysian culture. Expressing opinions about sex is still not openly addressed or talked about. However, today’s adolescents are more open to listening and discussing sensitive issues. Parents should be aware of how to approach and address these topics.

In addition, parents can take several steps such as developing a bond with their teen, especially girls, to facilitate easy communication. This will also enable teens to feel more at ease discussing sensitive topics like teenage pregnancy. It is important to emphasize the consequences of engaging in sexual activities and avoid using outdated language. Alongside parents, schools play a significant role as a second home for teenagers, with teachers acting as second parents. Therefore, schools should prioritize sex education and provide students with comprehensive knowledge about sex.

At the early stage of sex education, schools can organize a campaign to address this issue and educate students on how to prevent teenage pregnancy. This campaign aims to help students comprehend the complexities of sex and the implications of becoming young parents when they are unprepared for such a significant responsibility. When teaching about sex education, it is crucial for teachers to emphasize the challenges of being a young parent. Additionally, teachers should consistently remind students about their life goals and the importance of not disappointing their parents, who rely on them for their future.

One factor that has not been empirically studied but is likely connected to teenage pregnancy is the exposure to sexual content in television and movies. According to TIME Magazine, “teens exposed to the most sexual content on television are twice as likely as teens watching less of this material to become pregnant before they reach the age of 20.” In movies like Fools Rush In, the characters played by Selma Hayes and Matthew Perry are portrayed as highly deceptive. Selma Hayes’ character becomes pregnant on the first night she meets him and then shows up at his doorstep three months later to inform him.

He immediately shows his support and marries her within a day. Such cinematic scenarios raise girls’ expectations of men, which are often unrealistic. It’s important for young girls to understand that real life is usually very different from what they see in movies. The purpose of movies is to transport young girls to a better world, where they can briefly escape from pain and anxiety. Moreover, movies rarely depict the challenges and difficulties faced by teenage mothers.

Limiting teenagers’ exposure to sexual content on television and providing a balanced portrayal of sex in the media that includes information about potential negative consequences could help decrease the likelihood of teen pregnancy. Parents can play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of this sexual content by watching with their children and engaging in discussions about these portrayals of sex. Furthermore, we advocate for increased awareness among government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) about the actual facts surrounding teen pregnancies, as this is essential for them to effectively contribute towards finding solutions.

Despite the potential benefits of proposals for enhanced sex education, increased availability of shelter homes, and implementation of baby hatches, they fail to address the fundamental problems. More crucial issues, such as societal attitudes, inadequate reproductive health services for women, restrictive government policies and regulations affecting women’s reproductive rights, pose significant obstacles to progress in this field. Consequently, women face challenges in managing unintended pregnancies. The accessibility, affordability, and safety of abortion services remain unexplored due to the associated stigma and prevailing culture of silence regarding these important matters.

In summary, it is necessary for macro-level interventions, whether from parents, governments, mass media, or others, to provide sufficient information that promotes protection and offers young people options in the event of such a situation. However, these interventions should not support or accept the act of abandonment or baby dumping. Lack of proper education and awareness leaves young mothers feeling as though they have no choice but to escape their problems through these extreme measures. Our research at the micro-level, specifically looking into the influence of peers on teenage pregnancy issues, revealed that peer pressure is an initial factor in early pregnancies.

The pressure faced by teenagers to engage in sexual activity with the opposite sex often stems from the need for acceptance among their peers. If a teenager associates with a sexually active group, it is highly likely that they will also become sexually active. Many teenagers choose to engage in sexual intercourse in order to gain acceptance from their “circle of friends”. In certain countries, teenagers experience significant peer pressure to initiate sexual activity at a young age, which can result in unintended teenage pregnancies.

Certainly peer influence is an aspect of children’s lives that parents often feel they cannot control. Nevertheless, parents do have the power to impact peer influence. They can do so by encouraging specific friendships and utilizing certain tactics that can shape their children’s relationships with their peers or peer groups. Ultimately, these relationships can then influence the likelihood of teen pregnancy. A practical example is for parents to closely monitor their children’s wider circle of friends and guide them towards associating with male and female peers who pose a lower risk. Additionally, it is beneficial for parents to become acquainted with not only their children’s friends but also the parents of those friends.

Teen pregnancy is a multifaceted social problem impacted by various socio-economic factors and accompanied by diverse moral judgments. There are multiple reasons why teens are at risk of becoming pregnant. While many teens actively avoid pregnancy, some factors such as lack of information, limited access to birth control, or contraceptive failure can contribute to unintended teenage pregnancies. Effective pregnancy prevention programs should address different issues, including insufficient information and limited access to contraception, as well as provide social support that promotes community involvement and educational endeavors.

Programs should acknowledge and respect community and cultural norms, including acceptance of early marriage and/or childbearing. These programs should provide teenagers with information and skills to prevent pregnancy, while also supporting their right to make informed choices, which may involve early pregnancy. If teen pregnancy stems from factors such as limited opportunities, low educational expectations, insufficient sexual health education, and inadequate resources, it is necessary to address these underlying issues through discussions, analysis, and action.

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Teenage Pregnancy in Malaysia. (2018, Feb 01). Retrieved from


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