In her book, Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy, Kristin Luker participates in the negotiated order of the United States by providing information to the information-gathering portion of the sympathetic process. Luker’s investigation of the issue of teenage pregnancy seeks not to provide information on what she perceives to be right or wrong but rather to provide the necessary background for an informed decision to be made.
Consistent with the social-constructionist theoretical perspective, Luker begins her analysis by pointing out that while the objective conditions surrounding teen pregnancy may or may not have changed, the subjective perception of the problem has changed, and in some ways, quite dramatically. Language, especially naming things, has a significant influence on our perspective. It causes us to create categories that dictate what and how we see things (Roy 12). By tracing the changes in the language used to define young/unwed parents and their offspring through various periods in the historical record, Luker demonstrates the shifts in the subjective perception of the issue of teenage pregnancy.
In colonial America, children born out of wedlock were a significant concern not only because the circumstances of their conception were considered a “sin in the eyes of the Church” but also because they often created an economic burden. Consequently, Puritanical society chose words to represent the child and its parents that carried a negative connotation. “Bastard” was the term used to refer to the child born out of wedlock; “illegitimate” was also commonly used. The mother of the child was considered a “fallen woman” and the father was often prevented from testifying in court or holding office. Parents of bastard children were considered sinners and often faced harsh punishment for their transgressions. As America moved into the eighteenth century, the immorality of extramarital intercourse ...
Luker, Kristin. Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966
Roy, William G. Making Societies: The Historical Construction of Our World. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press, 2001
Wilson, William Julius. Harvard University. (quote on back jacket of book)