Constructing and Managing Risk: The Example of Teenage Pregnancy

  • Allison Moore
  • Paul Reynolds
Part of the Studies in Childhood and Youth book series (SCY)


As we discussed in Chap.  3, childhood and youth policy at both a national and international level is frequently silent on the subject of sex and sexuality. Where it does refer to sexuality it is primarily within a framework of heteronormative and medico-moral discourses of sexual health, well-being and sexual risk taking. A number of commentators have suggested that risk and risk management are defining features of contemporary society. Ulrich Beck, for example, has described the ‘risk society’ as an inevitable and inescapable condition of globalised, advanced industrialisation (Beck 1992) and Anthony Giddens (1991: 28) has argued that “living in the ‘risk society’ means living with a calculative attitude to the open possibilities of action, positive and negative, with which, as individuals and globally, we are confronted in a continuous way in our social existence”. In other words, social life in late/high/post modernity is characterised by uncertainty and unpredictability. The social structures that shaped, if not determined, one’s life expectancies under modernity, such as class and gender, have been replaced by contingency and choice. No longer restrained by these structural determinants, individuals engage in a ‘reflexive project of the self’ (Giddens 1991) whereby risks are assessed and calculated and the individual is an active agent in the construction of their own biography. The extent to which Beck’s ‘reflexive modernisation’ thesis and Giddens’ ‘reflexive project of the self’ can be applied to young people in the twenty-first century has been extensively discussed elsewhere (see, for example, Thomson et al. 2002, 2005, Henderson et al. 2007). These critiques have focused, in particular, on the continued significance of social structures on shaping young people’s life chances. In this chapter, we focus on teenage pregnancy and, specifically, the construction of teenage pregnancy as a social problem in order to explore how young people, especially young women, understand and negotiate risk within the confines of their social circumstances. In so doing, it becomes evident that the social structures of age, class and gender are central to the construction of risk in relation to teenage pregnancy. This chapter will critically consider the construction of risk in terms of sexuality and argue that because of the antithetical constructions of childhood and sexuality, all sexual behaviour that children and young people engage in are, by definition, considered risky.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allison Moore
    • 1
  • Paul Reynolds
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesEdge Hill UniversityOrmskirkUK

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