Science and Morality: Interventions into Teen Parenting in the United States

Jennifer Heil Heipp

My research asks: how are social problems created, perpetuated, and solved?  Situated in the U.S., my research focuses on the lives of teen parents, and the state and private organizations that create interventions into the lives of teen parents.

Concern about teen parenting first emerged in the 1970s, and has remained an urgent political problem in the decades since – even as rates of teen pregnancy and parenting have been sharply falling over time.  The fact that concern about teen parenting has followed a trajectory opposite to incidence suggests that concern about teen parenting has social or political utility. Indeed, concerns about teen parenting are also ways of expressing racial anxieties, family life ideals, fears about loss of innocence, and sexual morals. 

My research focuses on the scientificalization of interventions into teen parenting.  “Evidence based practices” are increasingly being favored (and required) by funders.  I inquire how, in favoring outcomes over process, unintended consequences arise.