Many of the adverse consequences associated with adolescent childbearing are due to poverty and inadequate health care. Historically, definitions of the problem have emphasized individual, female culpability. Underlying social and economic factors have received less attention. For many adolescents, the early initiation of sexual activity and the failure to use birth control is associated with their perception of limited life opportunities, as well as sex role socialization inhibiting contraceptive initiative. This paper considers the role of professional groups and service advocates in defining the problem and developing policy alternatives. It examines the processes through which an issue having significant redistributive implications has been defined as one of individual female deviance.

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