An ethnographic study of the perceptions of Puerto Rican pregnant teenagers

Date of Completion

January 2001


Anthropology, Cultural|Health Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology|Psychology, Social|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of pregnant Puerto Rican teenagers, their parents/guardians and their boyfriends/husbands as seen through the eyes of the participants. ^ The participants of this study were six pregnant Puerto Rican teenagers. They were enrolled in an alternative school for pregnant teens in a large size urban district in the Northeast. Five others were recruited through snowballing. These participants were attending grades 7 through 12. Also, their parents/guardians and their boyfriends/husbands were participants in this study. ^ This study used ethnographic techniques such as key informant interviewing, participant observation, focus groups and document analysis. ^ Results from this study seem to indicate that poverty and dysfunctional family structure may be linked to teen pregnancy; crime and violent neighborhoods may be predictors of teen pregnancy; parental loss may be associated to teen pregnancy; teen pregnancy may cause emotional stressors; cohabitation seemed to be common among Puerto Rican pregnant teens' parents and it is viewed as an acceptable practice comparable to legal marriage; teen pregnancy may be unplanned: Puerto Rican pregnant teens, their parents/guardians and boyfriends seemed to value virginity; Puerto Rican schools, bilingual education programs and alternative education programs seemed to share a caring and loving environment; the link between teenage pregnancy and school goals and expectations was validated in this study. ^ Conclusions from this study mirror important efforts in the identification of cultural values and their weight on sexual attitudes, beliefs, and norms. Effective interventions regarding Puerto Rican students should reflect the attitudes, beliefs and norms of these teens and their family. They should include perceptions of their community, economic and political contexts, family and religious structure, cultural and moral values, and, the consequences and expectations of being a member of that community. ^