Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

Teen Pregnancy and Media Engagement: A Uses and Gratifications Study

Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Media and Communication

First Advisor

Ewart Skinner (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Priscilla Coleman (Other)

Third Advisor

Daniel Fasko (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Sandra Faulkner (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Monica Longmore (Committee Member)

Sixth Advisor

Gi Yun (Committee Member)

Abstract

While teenage pregnancy has been on the decline, overall, since the 1970s, the frequency of teenage pregnancy in the United States is much higher than its incidence in other major industrialized countries. Furthermore, in the U.S., in certain instances and communities, teenage pregnancy has remained at unacceptable levels. This dissertation explores teenage pregnancy from the perspective of teenage mothers focusing on their relationship with the media throughout the process of their pregnancy and into motherhood. This study also takes into consideration the contextual factors that impact media usage such as the environment in which participants live in, socioeconomic status, family background, interaction with peers, and school, among other possible influences. The novel approach taken here is the use of qualitative interviews from the Uses and Gratifications perspective, and the employment of Grounded Theory analysis. The participant sample comprises 30 students a school for teenage mothers in the Midwest. No previous academic studies have examined the engagement pregnant teenagers have had with the media. However, several studies have examined teenagers’ exposure to sexual content on television and their subsequent sexual behavior.

Research questions focus on how and when these young women find information pertaining to having a child before, during and after their pregnancy and their current engagement with the media. Responses among three groups of light, average, and heavy media usage show that pregnant teens and teen mothers usage of media was fairly consistent amongst the groups in terms of sharing progress of pregnancy and seeking health information about pregnancy online. Most of the teen mothers changed their attitude toward seeing sex in the media after having their baby. Several pregnant teens/teen mothers decreased their social media activity or deleted their social media accounts due to drama and bullying.

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