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close this bookHuman Growth and Development (FAO)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAims/objectives
View the documentBasic concepts
View the documentActivity no. 1 - The wrong information, or the right information
View the documentActivity no. 2 - The human reproductive cycle
View the documentActivity no. 3 - How does the story end?



Before using this guide, please read the notes in the introduction booklet.

All of the material in this module has been carefully thought out and tested with youth groups in a number of countries. It contains material which is thought to be important and appropriate for young people to know. However, because every group is different, it is not possible to produce a booklet which is perfect for everyone, so it is important to remember that this booklet is intended as a guide for the leader.

This means that it is up to you the leader to use this material as you see fit You may wish to adapt some of the group activities to make them more appropriate to your group.

Some of the material you may not wish to present yourself - perhaps because you do not feel technically competent or because you find it embarrassing or awkward to discuss certain matters with the youth group. In these cases you may wish to ask a local expert in that subject to address your youth group. For example, an agricultural extension officer for the agriculture projects, a small business advisor for income generating activities or a health worker for the health and nutrition aspects. Use of a resource person like this does not make your role as the group leader any less important, but they can add interest and authority to the subjects taught.

The modules may be used in any order, but the modules with the same colour cover are best used together since they cover one general area

First edition was published and field tested in 1988 and 1989 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Project INT/88/P98 "Integration of Population Education into Programmes for Rural Youth in Low-Income Countries" with funding from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).

This revision was published in 1990 and is based on field test findings from the first edition.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of FAO. The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Original Concept and Text: W.I. Lindley & S.A. Dembner
This Revision: J.F. Cook
Original Illustrations: Teresa Cede.L. Williams
This Revision: Pandora Money


By participating in the activities of this module, it is intended that group members will:

· Describe the physical and emotional changes they undergo as they grow up.

· Discuss the various beliefs and values of their society with regard to human growth and development.

· Obtain factual information about the human reproductive process.

· Understand and describe the risks of teenage pregnancy.

Basic concepts

· All living things reproduce.

· Pregnancy and childbirth are natural events in human life. It is important to understand the human reproductive process.

· Human development is a continuous process, from infancy to adulthood.

· Physical maturation occurs before emotional maturity.

· Individual and cultural values influence sexual behaviour.

· Teenage pregnancy is dangerous for both mother and child.

· Ignorance is not bliss. There are many harmful consequences of ignorance about sex, including too early pregnancy, too many children, STDs and AIDS.

Activity no. 1 - The wrong information, or the right information

The wrong information, or the right information

A role-playing activity to bring out misconceptions and truths about the process of growing up.



Note: If the group members are reluctant to play the game at first, the leader should play both roles, changing his position or voice to indicate when he is telling false or true information

· The leader explains to the group that they will play a role-playing game to bring out mistaken ideas some people have about growing up, and also the truth.

· Each of the group members selects a topic about growing up from the list on the following pages, or picks one of his or her own.

· The group member then makes up a small story of what misinformed people think or say about the topic. For example, if the topic is "becoming a man", the group member might say that a boy is not a man until he has sexual relations with a woman, or that to become a man a boy must kill a lion. If the topic is "menstruation", the group member might say menstruation is a serious illness and when women are menstruating they should avoid all contact with anyone else.

· The leader then interprets the part of the informed person (perhaps pretending to be a chief, or elder or even a spirit or ancestor) and gives the correct information.

· The game continues until all the topics on the following pages and any other the group members have chosen have been discussed.

The game


So that group members will be able to:

· Voice misconceptions and popular beliefs about growing up in a way that is humourous and not embarrassing to them or to people who may hold these beliefs.

· Obtain factual information about the physical and emotional changes our bodies undergo as we grow up.

· Accept the changes of adolescence and puberty without guilt or shame.



· The suggested topics on page 14 and the background information on the following pages.

· Enthusiasm for role-playing.

· Good humour.

· Seriousness and attention.

Some background information for the group leader

Why is it important that young people know about sexual development?

It makes sense to discuss health and disease because then young people will know how to avoid illness. It is easy to become ill by drinking dirty water so it is sensible to talk about this. It is important to talk about education, work, the community, etc. These are all aspects of normal human life and are subjects young people should know about as they grow up. Not to know about them is not 'bliss' - it is dangerous.

In the same way it is not bliss to he ignorant of sex because then it is much more likely that pregnancy will happen before the parents are ready. Too many children may he horn too close together which will affect the health of the mother. AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases will he passed on.

This background information contains important facts everyone should know to prepare them-selves for adulthood.

What is adolescence?

Adolescence is the combination of physical, emotional and social changes that people go through as they develop from children into adults. Young people do not "become adults" or "grow up" in a single moment, even though many societies had or still have "coming of age" ceremonies. Adolescence is a process that takes several years.

Adolescence is not a disorder, but rather a time for personal and social growth that allows young people to take better control over their lives and futures by understanding the physical, mental and social changes involved. Understanding and accepting the changes of adolescence helps young people to prepare for life as responsible adults.

What are some of the physical changes boys go through in adolescence?

The principal physical changes that appear in boys during adolescence are the following:

Growth spurt. During childhood, boys usually grow in height at a rate of 3-4 cm per year. However, during adolescence boys may grow as much as 10-12 cm in a single year. (Adolescence usually starts between l l or 13 years of age but varies quite widely.)

Muscular development. In adolescence, boys' shoulders get broader and their arms, legs and chest become more muscular.

Body hair. More hair begins to appear on boys' bodies, first in the pubic area and under the arms, and then on other parts of the body including the face, legs, chest, back and arms. However, the presence or absence of body hair is not a sign of maturity or masculinity. Some men grow more body hair than others.

Sexual development. During adolescence, the penis and testes increase in size. At this stage boys are often very concerned about the size of their penis, because many people think the size of the penis is connected with the extent of a man's masculinity. It is important for youth to know, firstly, that a penis that is large when it is not erect tends to increase less in size during erection than a smaller one and, secondly, that the size of the penis does not make one less of a man. It makes no difference to the ability to produce children or to how much satisfaction is gained from sexual relations.

Sexual development

Another part of sexual development in boys is ejaculation which is the expulsion of semen through the penis. Ejaculation indicates that the body is physically ready for reproduction. It can happen involuntarily during sleep or by voluntary stimulation of the penis, called masturbation. Masturbation is often considered "wrong" or "dirty" but it is really just another part of growing up. Masturbation helps young men to become more familiar with their bodies, and it also helps relieve physical and emotional tension.

Note: More information about menstruation and the human reproductive cycle is included m the background information for Activity No. 2 of this module.

Masturbation causes no physical harm. It does not lead to weakness or illness.

Voice changes. As boys go through adolescence, their voices become deeper.

Glandular development. The body's sweat glands begin to work harder and perspiration begins to smell stronger. The glands in the skin also begin to produce more perspiration. If the pores of the skin become blocked, this can result in pimples or acne.

What are some of the changes girls go through in adolescence?

Growth spurt. Girls also have a period of rapid growth in adolescence and may grow as much as 1 0- 12 cm in one year. Usually girls begin to mature earlier than boys, sometimes two to three years before.

Body development. As a girl moves into adolescence, her muscles stretch and her body becomes more shapely. Her hips become rounded and her breasts develop.

Body hair. As a girl grows up, she develops body hair in the pubic area and under the arms. She also grows some body hair on her arms and legs hut usually not as much as boys do.

Sexual development. Unlike in men, girls' sexual organs are inside the body and so, although they grow and mature during adolescence, this cannot be seen. At a certain point, however, usually between the ages of 11 and 13, a girl menstruates for the first time. This is a sign that her body is biologically able to reproduce (however, she will not be emotionally or socially mature until she is at least 20). At first, menstrual periods are irregular but soon they stabilize into a regular cycle, occurring approximately once a month. In the cycle, the female body prepares for pregnancy. Menstruation occurs every month unless there is pregnancy.

Sexual development

Menstruation is a normal part of a woman's life and is not a sign of illness or weakness. Some women have some pain and discomfort when they are menstruating, but most can continue their daily lives without interruption.

What emotional changes occur in adolescence?

As the bodies of young men and women undergo changes during adolescence, their feelings and emotions also change. Young people become much more concerned about their relationships with other people. They begin to become independent and to want to make decisions without assistance from their parents or other elders. At the same time, the opinions and approval of other young people, both of their own sex and of the other sex, become very important.

Sometimes young people do things they really don't want to do in an attempt to be accepted by or please people of their own age. For example, a boy or girl may have sexual relations only because someone else says "Everyone I know is doing it."

It is important for youth to become aware of these emotional changes and pressures so that they can think clearly and make responsible decisions, especially about sexual behaviour.

What social changes occur during adolescence?

A young man

As young men and women grow up, the behaviour that is expected of them from the rest of society also changes. They are expected to take on more responsibilities and are also expected to behave in particular ways that are different in every society and community. As they mature, young people must learn and respect the formal and informal rules of their society or pay the consequences. However, it may not always be correct to follow some of the informal rules. For example, in many societies men and women are expected to behave differently. People may say things like, "Act like a man," or "Men don't cry," or "Be a lady." Young people need to think carefully about social expectations and make responsible decisions.

Parts of growing up about which to dramatize misconceptions and truths

How does a boy's body change as he grows up?

When is a girl a woman?

How does a girl's body change as she grows up?

What is ejaculation?

What is menstruation?

What are pimples?

What happens to relations with young people of the same sex?

How do relations with parents change?

What is masturbation?

What happens relations with young people of the other sex?

How do emotions change during adolescence?

When is a boy a man?

Activity no. 2 - The human reproductive cycle

The human reproductive cycle

A flip chart discussion explaining the structure and function of the reproductive organs of the human body and the human reproductive process.



Note: It does not matter if the group is made up of young men or young women or both, the information is important for everyone. You, as the leader, may decide, however, that this session should be presented separately to the young men and women of your group.

· The leader explains that all living things reproduce plants, animals and, of course, people.

· He explains that it is important for young people to understand how their bodies function and how human beings reproduce in order to be more responsible adults and parents.

· He then either presents the pre-prepared flip chart on the human reproductive cycle himself or introduces a health/population worker who presents the flip chart.

· As the flip chart is presented, the leader or health worker answers any questions the group members may have.


So that group members will be able to:

· Understand the structures and function of the human reproductive organs.
· Obtain factual information about the human reproductive cycle.



· The pre-prepared flip chart accompanying this module (the images and information are also reproduced as background information with this activity).

· Advance preparation by the leader and use of a resource peson if desired.

· Recognition by the leader that this is an important and serious topic, and one about which some people may feel uncomfortable.

· Interest and participation by the group members.

Some background information for the group leader

Note: All drawings marked "Copyright © 1982 Fran P. Husken" are adapted from "The Universal Childbirth Picture Book", by F. Hosken and M. Williams, published by Women's International Network News, 187 Grant Street, Lexington, MA 021173 U.S.A.

Please contact WIN NEWS directly if you would like more information about the picture hook and related publications.

Male reproductive or sex organs

This is a drawing of the male reproductive or sex organs. The most obvious male sex organ is the penis. The penis is made of soft spongy tissue covered by very elastic skin. When a man becomes sexually excited, the penis becomes larger and rigid. This is called an erection. Erections make it possible for the male to deposit his sperm cells inside the female's body.

When the sexual excitement that caused the man's erection continues, the muscles in the base of the penis contract and a very pleasant experience called an ejaculation or orgasm results. In ejaculation, a liquid called semen containing male sperm cells is forced out of the penis in spurts.

The male sperm cells are produced in the testes which are the two oval organs contained in a pouch of skin under the base of the penis. This pouch is called the scrotum.

The penis is also used to urinate, but ejaculation and urination cannot occur at the same time. When the male is sexually excited, the opening connecting the penis and the bladder (where urine is produced) is closed.

Male sex organs

Male sex organs

Female reproductive or sex organs

This is a drawing of the female sex or reproductive organs which, unlike those in the male, are all hidden inside the body. The reproductive system of the human female consists of four internal organs.

The uterus is a hollow organ shaped like an upside-down pear. It is in the uterus that a baby lives and develops before being born. When a woman is not pregnant, the uterus is usually about the size of a closed fist. But in a pregnant woman, the uterus gradually expands as the baby grows inside it.

There are two ovaries in the female body, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries, which are about the size of the first joint of the thumb, are where the female eggs are stored.

Each ovary is connected to the uterus by a fallopian tube and each month the ovaries usually send one egg (one month from one ovary and one month from the other) down the fallopian tube passageway to the uterus.

Female sex organs

The vagina is an elastic tube that connects the uterus with the outside of the woman's body. The vagina has three functions. It is the place the man puts his penis when two people have sexual intercourse. It acts as a passageway for menstruation each month when a woman is not pregnant. It is the passageway through which a baby is born.

The woman urinates through the vulva, located just above the vagina.

Female sex organs

The female reproductive cycle

This drawing shows what happens in the female reproductive or menstrual cycle.

Each month, one of the ovaries prepares and releases a single egg into the fallopian tube. The egg slowly moves along the fallopian tube towards the uterus. As it does, the body sends signals ahead to the uterus to prepare for the arrival of the egg. The uterus prepares by building up its inner lining into the perfect home for a fertilized egg.

During this trip, fertilization or the formation of a new being can occur if the egg unites with a male sperm cell inside the fallopian tube. However, if fertilization does not occur, when the egg finishes its trip along the fallopian tulle, it and the lining of the uterus are no longer needed and are discarded by the body. This process is called menstruation or the menstrual period (some women call this "having their period"). The menstrual flow is a mixture of blood, dead cells and mucus and usually lasts 35 days. In some women. it may last 7-8 days.

When a woman is menstruating she is not bleeding from a wound and she is not sick or in danger. Her uterus is simply cleansing itself to prepare for the next monthly cycle.

When she is not pregnant, a woman menstruates every month, from the time she is an adolescent at about 11-13, until she is 45-50 years old. When a woman reaches the age at which she stops menstruating, this is called menopause. It is a sign that the body is no longer able to bear children, but a woman can continue to enjoy sex after menopause.

The female reproductive cycle (1)

The female reproductive cycle (2)

The female reproductive cycle (3)

The female reproductive cycle (4)

The process of fertilization or conception

When a man puts his penis inside a woman's vagina and ejaculates, millions of sperm cells are released. Once inside the vagina, the sperm cells begin to swim up through the uterus and into the fallopian tubes. If there is a female egg at just the right spot in the fallopian tube and it meets a sperm cell, the two may join together to form a new being. This is called fertilization or conception.

The process of fertilization or conception

Neither the sperm nor the egg can become a new person by themselves, hut together they contain all the information needed to produce a human being. If conception occurs, the fertilized egg continues to move down the fallopian tube. When it reaches the uterus, it attaches itself to the inner lining especially prepared for it by the woman's body and begins to grow and develop. This is how pregnancy begins. Pregnancy does not always occur every time a man and a woman have sexual relations even if there is an egg in the fallopian tubes. But pregnancy can occur each time

The egg fertilized

How a baby develops inside the uterus

The next illustrations show how a baby develops inside its mother's uterus during the nine months of pregnancy. This first chart shows what a baby looks like after the first three months of pregnancy.

During this time, the baby's internal organs begin to form and the baby grows to about the size of a closed fist. However, if the baby were to be born at this time, it would die.

How a baby develops inside the uterus (after the first three moths)

The baby grows inside a pouch that is filled with water called the amniotic sac. The baby lives inside this sac for the nine months of pregnancy and gets all of the oxygen and nourishment it needs through a tube which connects it with the lining of the mother's uterus. This tube is called the umbilical cord.

During the first three months of pregnancy, the mother's belly usually does not show any signs of swelling so other people may not even know she is pregnant. But the mother does know because she does not have her monthly menstrual period. It is important that she take good care of her health and nutrition during pregnancy. This means eating well and avoiding any substances that could be harmful to her 0 Everything the mother eats, drinks or otherwise takes into her body also reaches the baby through the umbilical cord. Once a woman knows she is pregnant, she should stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Also during the first three months, she should not take any drugs that have not been perscribed by a doctor who knows she is pregnant.

No drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes

A baby after six months inside the uterus

This drawing shows a six-month-old baby inside the mother.

From the third to the sixth month, the baby grows to a length of 35 cm (approximately the length of an arm from wrist to elbow) and may weigh up to 1 kg.

During this period, the face of the baby develops as well as its fingers and toes. Its bones begin to develop too.

One very exciting thing that happens during this period is that the baby begins to move inside the mother. By putting your hand gently on the mother's bely, you can sometimes feel the baby turn or move inside the amniotic sac.

A baby after six months inside the uterus

The last three months of pregnancy

In the last three months of pregnancy, the baby grows very rapidly and the mother's belly becomes distended and swollen. The baby's bones grow and become stronger although they are still very flexible. The body fully develops and the internal organs are complete.

From the seventh month onward, it is also possible to see whether the baby is male or female. However, although the sexual organs of the baby are not visible until the seventh month, the sex of the baby is determined at the moment of fertilization. It is the father's sperm cells that carry the information that determines the sex of the baby.

It is important to understand, therefore, that it makes no sense for a man to complain that it is the woman's fault if they have only girl babies. First of all, children of both sexes are equally valuable and second, it is the father's sperm which determines whether the baby will be a boy or a girl.

The last three months of pregnancy

The process of birth

The baby after nine moth

The baby after nine moth

The next two illustrations show how a baby is born. This first chart shows a baby at the end of nine months, full grown and ready to be born.

When the baby is full grown, it turns so that its head is next to the opening in the mother's uterus called the cervix. The birth process begins with the breaking of the amniotic sac. When this happens, the amniotic liquid comes out through the vagina and the mother knows that it is time to go to the hospital or to a clinic, or to seek help from a midwife if she will have the baby at home.

Note: The group leader and/or health worker should decide whether these next illustrations should be shown to the whole youth group, to boys and girls separately or only to the girls. The situation will depend on the social background of each particular group.

It is very important that the place where the baby will be born is warm and as clean as possible because a newborn baby can easily get an infection and die.

After the amniotic sac has broken, the muscles in the mother's uterus begin to try to push the baby out through the vagina. Gradually the contractions become stronger and more frequent and the cervix and the vagina stretch enough to let the baby through.

The process of birth (1)

The process of birth (2)

The process of birth (3)

The birth process: Part 2

The placenta

When the baby is born, it is still attached to the lining of the uterus by the umbilical cord. The doctor or midwife ties off and cuts the umbilical cord where it joins the baby. After the umbilical cord is cut, the mother's body also pushes out the amniotic sac and the lining of the uterus. This is called the placenta or afterbirth.

As soon as the baby is born and the umbilical cord has been cut, the baby is given to the mother to suck on her breast. The first milk that the mother produces is not white like milk usually is and sometimes mothers think that it is not good for the baby. But this is a mistake. The first milk (called colostrum) is very important for the baby. It is very rich in protein and also contains substances which help to protect the baby from infections and diseases.

The umbilical cord

Breast-feeding is very important for the baby's growth and should be continued as long as possible - even up to two years. However, after the fourth month, breast milk by itself is not enough and the baby needs to start eating solid foods as well.

How do twins develop?

There are two kinds of twins. The first kind are babies who are born at the same time but do not look exactly the same (they may even be one boy and one girl). This type of twin occurs when two eggs are released from the ovaries at the same time instead of the usual one. If both of these eggs are fertilized by sperm, then twins will be formed. These are called non-identical twins.


If both eggs are fertilized. non-identical twins are formed.

The second type of twins are called identical twins. This type of twin occurs at a later stage. After the single egg has been fertilized by the man's sperm, it divides into two and each of the halves becomes a new fertilized egg that can grow into a baby.

If one fertilized egg divides into two, identical twins are formed.

Why can't some women have babies?

There are many reasons why some women cannot have babies - it may be that they do not produce eggs from their ovaries - or that the tube from the ovary to the womb is blocked so that the egg cannot be fertilized.

Why can't some men have babies?

It may be nothing to do with the woman at all - the man may be infertile - that is although everything seems normal when they have sexual intercourse, the sperm cannot fertilize the woman's eggs. Sometimes these problems can be solved. Your clinic or health worker will be able to give you more details.

What is an albino?

An albino is just a normal person who's body cannot make the chemical for skin colouring. That is why the skin is white and the eyes pink. They get sunburned very easily but otherwise they are the same as anyone else.

Note: Albinism and other inherited characteristics are complicated subjects. This background information is intended as a brief introduction only. The leader may wish to refer group members to a book on genetics or a health worker if they wish to know more about this subject. Your local library or health centre may also be able to help.

Albinism is passed on from parents to children but not as simply as some other characteristics.

As explained earlier, a baby is formed from the egg of a woman and the sperm of a man. Each of these contains half of the information needed to make the baby. That is why children look partly like their mother and partly like their father. Albinos are only produced when both parents have some of the information to make an albino. This information may not be enough on its own to make either parent an albino but when put together, the child may be an albino. Even if one parent is an albino, they cannot have an albino child unless their partner also has some of this 'albino information'. (The chance then of having an albino child is one in four.)

If there are albinos in a family - whether parents, children, grandparents or any other blood relatives - there is a chance that another child born into that family will be an albino. If there has never been an albino in the family of either parent, their children cannot be albinos.

Some women have difficulty giving birth - what are the main problems and why do they occur?

Women who have a baby when they are young (less than 18) often have difficulty with their first birth because the pelvic area has simply not developed enough. This means that the baby is too large for the birth canal and can cause great pain and even permanent damage to the mother during child birth. Although a woman is capable of conceiving a child as soon as she starts to menstruate, her body does not fully develop for several more years. A young woman may be physically mature enough to have a family when she is 17 years old but she may well not be psychologically mature enough until several years later.

Another common birth problem occurs when the baby is born feet first instead of head first. This is called a breech birth. The head and shoulders are the largest part of the baby and should come out first. If the baby is born feet first, there is a danger that the umbilical cord will be broken or damaged before the baby's head is outside. Until the baby takes its first breath, the cord which joins it to its mother keeps it alive. Once the baby is born, the cord is no longer needed.

Usually, even a breech birth does not cause any serious problem, however, if a properly trained midwife or doctor is in attendance.

Your health worker or clinic will be able to give you more information on difficult births.

Breech birth

Activity no. 3 - How does the story end?

How does the story end?

Group members complete stories involving adolescent pregnancy.



· The leader first explains to the group that the activity concerns the risks of teenage pregnancy.

· He then tells the group the complete story on the following pages.

· After the story, the leader starts off a discussion by asking the group members what they think about what happened and stimulates the discussion of adolescent pregnancy by asking some of the questions on the following pages.

· After the discussion, the leader starts a number of other stories involving adolescent pregnancy and asks members of the group to suggest how the stories might end.

· The activity ends with a review by the group leader of the advantages of delaying pregnancy.


So that group members will be able to:

· Learn about the physical risks of teenage pregnancy for mother and child.

· Analyse the possible negative social and emotional results of teenage pregnancy.

· Understand the need for responsible decision making regarding pregnancy.



· The complete and incomplete stories on the following pages.

· The background information on the following pages.

· Participation and interest.

Some background information for the group leader

Is adolescent or teenage pregnancy a risk?

A teenage girl who becomes pregnant is at much greater health risk than one who waits until she is at least 20 years old. She is likely to have a more difficult time in childbirth because her hips and muscles may not be fully developed as explained in the last section. The chances of death in childbirth are much greater. Other complications are also more frequent.

The physical risks are also much greater for her child. Babies born to teenage mothers are more likely to die at birth or in the first year, and those that live are more likely to be underweight, weak and sickly.

A woman who has her children later, when she is between the ages of 20 and 35 for example, gives them and herself the best chances for good health.

What are the emotional and social risks of teenage pregnancy?

A pregnant girl leave school

A young girl who becomes pregnant finds herself faced with a series of responsibilities for which she is probably not prepared. This can lead to emotional stress and anxiety.

A young girl who becomes pregnant faces many problems. She may be forced to leave school. If that happens, her education is interrupted and she will have fewer chances to adequately provide for their child. She may also lose contact with her friends who are free of such heavy responsibilities. A young girl who gets pregnant may also be rejected by her own family and be left with nowhere to turn.

An early pregnancy may also lead a young girl to marry or unite with a boy or man who she really does not want as her long-term partner. This can cause great tension in a relationship and lead to an unhappy, unhealthy environment in which to live and raise children.

What are some of the factors that contribute to adolescent pregnancy?

Curiosity or lack of self-control. Young people become curious about sex as they go through adolescence and may risk getting pregnant for the sake of a new experience.

Lack of knowledge. Many young people do not know about the risks of teenage pregnancy or about methods of avoiding or delaying pregnancy.

False information. Youth may have false or inadequate information about the risks of pregnancy. For example, they may have heard that "you can't get pregnant the first time," or "you can't get pregnant if you don't enjoy it."

Desire to escape their family situation. Some young girls may deliberately get pregnant in the hope of leaving a poor or troubled family situation.

Irresponsible behaviour by adults. Older boys or men may try to have sexual relations with young girls. In many areas, this is illegal with very young girls. Another example of irresponsible adult behaviour is parents who push their children into early marriages.

Pressure from other young people. Young girls may have sexual relations to please or gain acceptance from other people of their own age. Other young people may say things like, "everyone is doing it," or "you don't know what you're missing."

What are the effects of teenage pregnancy on population?

A woman who starts having children early in life is also likely to have more children than a woman who has children when she is older. This means that teenage pregnancy contributes to rapid population growth.

What are some of the things a young person should think about regarding sex and pregnancy?

A young person should think seriously about the risks and possible results of their actions. When considering sex and having children, a young person should ask himself or herself the questions on the next page.

Why am I doing this? Do I really care for this person? Or is it just to "prove" I can do it?

What are my hopes and plans for the future?

What are the risks? Do I know what I am doing and am I prepared to pay the consequences?

Is it morally right?

Do I have the physical and emotional maturity to take care of a child?

Could I provide for a child? Could I give it the food, clothes, time, and affection it would need?

If I were to have a child, would I be able to continue in school? Or to work?

Would I have to stay with my mother and father and be an extra burden on them?

The complete story to start off the activity

Victor is 17 years old and his girlfriend Susie is 16. They have been seeing each other for six months when she discovers she is pregnant. The two decide to get married so Susie leaves school and they move into a little house. In eight months a little girl is born but Susie is very sick in child-birth and the baby is small and sickly. It takes all of the little money they have to care for her.

Over the year, Victor has changed a lot. He is always in a bad mood, he drinks a lot and sometimes he doesn't come home at night. What is worse, he doesn't seem to care about his daughter at all. One day, Susie asks Victor to get some medicine for the baby. He starts screaming and beating her and then he leaves and never comes back.

The problems with Victor and Susie

Some questions to start off the discussion

What do peopled in the community say?

What do you think of the story?

Do you think was a good idea for Susie to get pregnant at such a young age?

What are some of the risks to the mother of early pregnancy?

What about risks to the baby?

Do you think Susie will ever be able to go back and finish school?

What do their parents think?

What happens young people that have children without really being ready for them?

Stories for the group to complete

Stories for the group to complete

Note: The group leader should read out each story showing the group the picture associated with it. He or she should then begin a discussion of the story with the group starting with the questions on page 49. Try to ensure that all group members join in the discussion by encouraging quieter members to give their opinion.

Dorothy is 14 and is the eldest of 10 children. For as long as she can remember, she has had to help her mother take care of her brothers and sisters. Her boyfriend Jackson keeps asking her to come and live with him. Dorothy thinks she probably will say yes because she would rather care for one person than for nine...

More stories...

Rhoda is 17 and has recently discovered she is pregnant. She tells her father who screams at her "You stupid girl. After I paid all those school fees for you!"...

Rhoda tells her father she is pregnant who screams at her

Michael and Rose are both 16 and they like each other very much. Michael wants to have sexual relations with Rose but she isn't sure. "Come on," says Michael, "everyone knows nothing can happen the first time."...

Michael and Rose

Dawn has a six-month-old baby. She lives at home with her parents but there is a lot of tension in the family since the baby was born. Dawn's mother has seven children of her own and there is never enough food...

Rose with children

Nora is only 13 but she looks older than her age. John, who is 21 and has already got two other girls pregnant, keeps taking her for walks and buying her presents. One day, he takes her down to the river and tries to convince her to have sexual relations with him by saying, "Well, if you get pregnant we will get married."...

Nora and John

James is 19 and his girlfriend Anna is 17. He keeps on saying, "If you really love me, you will say 'yes' “. She says, "If you really love me, you will wait until I want to."...

James and Anna

Booklets in this Leaders Guide Series:

Population and Agriculture
Population, Employment and Income
Population and the Environment
Population and Nutrition
Population and Health
The Family and Family Size
Human Growth and Development
Responsible Parenthood
How the Population Changes
Community Involvement

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Integration of Population Education into Programmes for Rural Youth INT/88/P9