Teen parents - video transcript

Valmai Copeland:     

My topic today is teen parents.  I've got two major components to what I'm going to talk about, one's quite data rich with lots of graphs, so for those who hate graphs, sorry, there's going to be lots of them.  And then some insights from the literature.

First of all, a bit of bureaucracy, a lot of the data that you see displayed is drawn from the IDI, Statistics New Zealand's large scale linked database.  We have followed the appropriate protocols as to confidentiality and privacy so that the identities of people are protected and also just bear in mind that these sets of data that you see are not officially statistics, they are derived from the IDI by our analysts.

The purpose of the teen parent evidence brief was to understand the context and incidence of teen parenthood and also to gather some up-to-date evidence about what's working and what's not and what's being done both in New Zealand and overseas to support young parents.

Why we're interested is Oranga Tamariki is the Ministry for Children, and hence we have that duty of care for all children and specifically for children who are at risk of not thriving, and there's a lot of evidence that suggests that the babies of very young mothers tend to have a number of risk factors associated with their living circumstances.

So, just some context here.  How many babies and their mothers are we talking about?  The picture is changing over time.  Some of us can think back to 1972 where 69 out of 1,000 young women under 20 were having babies and that the number of babies born to teenagers peaked at around 9,000, so the world has changed a lot as you can see on this graph, which starts in 2009.  What we've got is two columns, one, the lower one, is first time births and the higher one is total births to mothers under 20.  And you can see that steady downward incline from in 2009, we were up at nearly 5,000, down in 2017, we're down to 2,300 overall, so effectively fallen by half over that time period, that's a remarkable change.

So, translating this into the fertility rate per thousand women, so that is of every thousand young women, this is the number of l ive births on average in that time period.  So, we're getting down in 2018 to 14 live births per 1,000 young women, down from, again, that peak of 33, but much higher, 69 per 1,000 in the peak at 1972.  I'm going to be using a whole set of sort of variations on birth rates of different forms, counts, fertility rates, comparison to existing years and also flicking -- in general, I'm talking about live births rather than total births; the difference isn't large but it is there as a difference.

One of the other things that's really interesting is the abortion rate for our young women.  If we look, again, 2009, eight or nine, it peaks.  That also aligns with the global financial crisis and periods of high unemployment and dropping down to 2017.  Why I find that interesting is that if we think back to the fertility rate and also to the abortion rate, it's not that the number of pregnancies is high and that this is compensated by a high abortion rate, it's that the number of pregnancies are actually falling as well.  So that's, again, a significant change, and there is some evidence that teens are delaying the start of their sexual experiences and that this has been marked in the last ten years.

We wanted to look at the age profile of our young mothers.  Is it the very, very young who are having babies, or the older?  And as you might expect, that top line is the 19 year olds, so the -- most babies to young mums are for the 18 and 19 year olds and that pattern has repeated across time.  Now, what is this graph, this is monthly births smoothed over a year, so if you're just looking at a particular line in a particular point in time, that's the number of births in that year, so that looking down to our group of 15 year olds which is that very bottom line, you will see that the number of births to 15 year olds per month has dropped to one or two or three rather than where it started at ten a month.

There is evidence that the medical outcomes for babies to very young women, the 15 year olds and younger, tend to have a lot more problems than older ones and so it's a positive thing that the age is somewhat older, also the older teens are more likely to be in some form of a relationship to have progressed further in their education and be more socially developed so that their support and resilience systems are better.

We also explored the ethnicity.  Now, this graph takes a wee bit of getting your head around, so I'll talk you through it.  What we've got is for Māori, Pacific, Indian, Asian and European/Other, the percentage of the births within that ethnic group so that if we look at our Pacific group, the orange is the percentage of all births to Pacific 18 and 19 year olds within that Pacific group, so 4% of births to Pacific women were to 18 and 19 year olds.  So, what this is telling us is there is quite different proportions of births within our different cultural groups and that for Indian and Asian young women in particular, those birth rates are really quite different and those proportions of births are really quite different than for Māori and Pacific.

We looked at using the IDI, the number of teen births by ethnicity compared to 2009, like where are the changes?  Because overall fertility rates and birth rates, the changes in drops in those over New Zealand are largely driven by the drop in teen births, so we were interested whether that was apparent for different cultural groups.  So, here we've got the blue line, the bottom line is other, Māori and Pacific.  Comparing it to those birth rates in 2009.  So, what you can see is, yes, descending for all groups, but descending more rapidly for other than for Māori and Pacific, and at around 2015 there's been a parting of the ways, a parting of that line between the Māori and Pacific groups.

We also explored financial security.  Now, this financial security relates to one of the five wellbeing domains in Oranga Tamariki's wellbeing model and it's largely based on parental income and history and extent of income support benefits and these are -- the baby's grandparents are really the drivers there rather than the parent, so we're looking back a generation, and what we can see here is for those with the lowest financial security, that mid-blue line up the top is the lowest financial security, the highest financial security is the bottom blue line, so that there's a clear difference in the rate of decrease in birth rates according to your income status, basically.

Around 50% of births to young mothers occur for those who are living in the lowest quintile for deprivation or the most deprived and hence the lowest area for deprivation, so there's a clear relationship between economic circumstance and birth rates.  The literature also tells us that when people have higher incomes, there are fewer teen births.

We also had a look at what about the kids in care who are in the charge of Oranga Tamariki.  So, again, comparing to that 2009 high point, how are things trending?  For young people who have never been in care, for those young women, the rate of decrease in birth rate is decreasing more from those who have ever been in care - that's the red line.

So, in this information, we've seen sort of -- an underlying premise is almost that teen parenthood is not a good thing.  However, we wanted to take a more holistic view there.  We wanted to look at what supports work both in New Zealand and overseas and what did the evidence say.  What we did find is that in New Zealand, there's very little formal evaluations have been done of teen support programmes.  Most of the literature that we found on this topic were from ERO, the Education Review Office, about teen parent units, and there are 23 teen parent units and about four to 500 young parents are enrolled in those units, predominantly women but there are about five, 10% young men, depending on the year.

The evaluations are mixed, there are some that are doing extremely well, there are some that are doing less well, but in general the impact is positive that they allow young parents to continue with their education and, as we know, education is a great predictor of thriving in future years and also of the children of those people with higher education thriving. 

Recently, in the last few years, the Young Parent Payment has been introduced and that's administered by the Ministry of Social Development, and that payment is made on the provision that the recipients are in education, so it's changed the dynamic around teen parent units as well. 

One of the other findings within the evaluations was that there's a lack of support structures for Māori, young parents within a Māori cultural framework.

So, looking more broadly at the literature, we saw that there are some challenges for young people.  These include stigmatisation and discrimination, disruption to both the education and to their careers and that there can be developmental issues for the young people, for the children of these young people.  However, there were circumstances that protected against negative impacts.  Particularly, there was social support, also support from their whanau, from their families.  That positive involvement of the father of the child, of those young mothers, was a protective factor for outcomes of the young people, and that worked two ways: both in the parenting of the child, but also in protecting the mother from depression and allowing her to cope more readily when there was that connection remained, and the taking of strengths-based approach to services and not seeing this pregnancy and birth as a bad thing also helped in the outcomes for the teen parents and their children.

Some young parents talked about advantages of being a teen parent, they were able to more closely relate to their baby and their children as they were closer in age, New Zealand and the rest of the world, the age of first motherhood has been increasing in general, it's now sitting at around 33, so that's almost a whole generation older than our 16 year olds are having babies, so quite a different relationship there.

Also, there's time once the baby is grown to have fun and to develop the career.  So instead of postponing motherhood and parenthood until the 30s and 40s, you do that earlier and then focus on the career, so just reverting to a different timeline.  And it can motivate positive change in the teen parents and I was fascinated there, most of you may remember Keisha Castle-Hughes, the young woman who was in the Whale Rider, she had her first -- she had her baby the month after she turned 17, and she had some very interesting things to say.  One of them was, "This is not a disaster, my family have already had -- have always had babies early and I'm just part of that", and her daughter lived with her uncles and aunts who were the same age up to sort of 13 years older than her so that it wasn't a disaster.

She also said that having her baby, Floss, motivated her to make changes for the positive to modify drinking, drug use and so on, and that was mirrored and resonated in some of the studies I read where young mothers said that the best thing that had ever happened to them was having their baby, that this was somebody they unconditionally loved and that also because they wanted the best for that child that they had moved themselves on, so while perhaps not the planned life course, also not the end of a life course.

We looked for ways to provide better support to young teens who are parents, one of them was to normalise adolescent sex and contraception so that accepting that it's part of life and talking with and being realistic with the young people about sexual behaviour and then actually providing health and sexual services, education and access to options.

It was important to include the young men in the dialogue, that it wasn't -- babies do not spontaneously appear, so that -- yeah, keep the young men in the conversation and involved, and support young people who are co-parenting.  Some of the options that were presented effectively took the young mothers and put them in isolation but know that the preferred option for the young people was to, as far as possible, stay together in their groupings.

Acknowledgements, Oranga Tamariki commissioned Allen and Clarke to do the actual literature review for us, so thank you Marnie and Jacinta in particular for that -- all the mahi they put in for us on that, also those graphs that we saw and the findings that I've talked about, our Actuarial Team within Oranga Tamariki provided the IDI analysis, I also drew heavily on Stats New Zealand's data and, of course, the IDI is part of their infrastructure.  Also, Ministry of Health and New Zealand Family Plannings published. 

Right, so that brings me to the end of my presentation which sets the context for young parenthood in New Zealand at the moment, so I'll now hand over to Mark and leave you to listen to his insights from the child support activities.


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