This research focuses on 15 high school girls who have become pregnant illegitimately and have kept their babies, whether married or not. The purpose of this exploratory research was to study factors influencing pregnant high school girls to keep their babies. These girls are attending or have attended the Rubidoux High School program for pregnant girls called Esperanza. The data were collected by observing these girls in class, and by interviewing them privately. The interviews ranged in time length from 35 minutes to nearly 90 minutes.

The Principle of Legitimacy states that every child needs a man as guardian, protector, and the child's link to society. A man makes the family sociologically complete. However, even though contraceptives are available, and abortions are accessible, the illegitimacy rate continues to climb. Also, the number of single mothers is increasing. Though legally, the single mother has every right to keep her child, socially she has not yet been granted that right. Various terms have been employed to describe the mother and child (whore, bastard). A stigma is usually attached to the mother/child dyad, and the girl is supposed to feel guilty. Yet, even though society has not yet condoned illegitimacy, the recent trend shows that more girls and women are trying it. How is this recent trend affecting and going to affect the norm of legitimacy?

Most of the girls interviewed have had incidents of illegitimacy in their families and among friends. Particularly among the friends, the baby was kept, whether the girl married or not. Most of the girls studied opposed abortion and adoption. They thought both were "immoral."

Despite the family opposition to the girl's keeping the baby, the girl chose to do so. Even though the girls said their friends had nothing to say about their decisions, most of the friends were in favor of their keeping their babies. Fourteen of the fifteen putative fathers were in favor of the girl keeping the baby. One father even threatened to hurt the girl if she "got rid" of the baby. Six of the fifteen fathers eventually married the girl.

Although the girls made remarks such as "pregnancy just happens, or "I thought it would never happen to me," or "other girls have sex, but I got caught," the girls generally felt that pregnancy was a girl's "own doing." She could have avoided pregnancy through the use of contraceptives, or having an abortion after conception. Since pregnancy was deemed the girl's ''mistake,'' or "doing," the girls felt it was their responsibility to care for the child. One girl did not think that someone other than herself should rear her responsibility (such as adoptive parents.) Guilt, though not directly, was expressed. One girl did not want to give her baby up for adoption because she did not want to be responsible for her child feeling "rejected" when he was told the circumstances of his birth.

When the girls spoke of the difference between legitimacy and illegitimacy, their remarks focused on the mother, and often the disadvantage of single motherhood. Unless prodded, the girls did not say how the absence of a father would affect the baby, other than a stigma would probably be attached to the baby. One girl said "they [fathers] are nice to have, but you can get along without them if you have to."

Many of the girls viewed the baby as an object or possession. Some of the girls used the pregnancy to "get around the folks" so they could marry. Some used the baby as a way to get back at the father, or a way of keeping the father.

LLU Discipline



Graduate School

First Advisor

Betty Stirling

Second Advisor

Anees A. Haddad

Third Advisor

Edward T. Himeno

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Illegitimacy; Mothers -- in adolescence



Page Count

v; 103

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

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Sociology Commons