Very often, the separation between personal lives and governmental control can create a scenario whereas the individual citizen cannot recognize the link between their own decisions and the greater society. In other words, people tend to think of their choices as being their own business and do not recognize how others and the entirety of the social structure are affected by these decisions. According to Mills, the ability to recognize the connection between the two can be discussed as social imagination.
Researchers have placed these concepts in regards to various personal decisions in order to determine what level of personal sovereignty an individual should have when their choices can have such a large impact on others. Rolfe (2011) explains that this concept is often viewed in the healthcare profession as individuals make decisions about their own lifestyles that can cost a greater financial burden on the overall society without regard for these negative implications. For the purpose of further discussing this concept, teenage pregnancy will be assessed as it affects both the individual and the larger society.
Caring for the life of another individual is a dramatic shift for anyone of any age. Researchers states that “parenthood is a major event in the lifespan of any individual. This is more so for a young girl who is facing the challenge of meeting the demands of schooling” (Julie, 2013, pg. 4). In other words, a young mother not only has to deal with the transition from being an individual to being a mother, but must also do this in the face of keeping up with the demands of youthfulness. Most often, this means that she will be less likely to achieve academic success and follow her selected career path. Her relationships with her peers will change dramatically and her ability to continue to develop psychologically and form lasting relationships will also be hindered (Julie, 2013). Additionally, there are concerns regarding the health of the teenage mother as the physiological changes can cause long term health issues that the young body may not be adapted to endure (Julie, 2013). However, the teenage female is able to make the decision as to whether or not to have intercourse and if they become pregnant to carry the child to term.
Looking at this scenario through the larger society, Rolfe (2011) explains that the financial burden of such decisions are far greater on the society than on the individual who makes the decision. Clearly, if the teenage mother is unable to achieve academic success, there is a much greater chance of her becoming dependent on social welfare institutions. The financial burden of feeding, clothing, housing, and providing medical care for the teenage mother and her child will fall to the larger society without the citizens having had any voice in the decision making process.
With the expectation that the child will then be raised in a lower socioeconomic status, Julie (2013) claims that the generational burden will continue well into the future and that the society will be responsible for years to come. Even though the society allows the teenager to make their decisions regarding their own bodies and the outcomes of their pregnancies, the fact remains that it is society who will feel the greatest amount of the burden that results from teenage pregnancies.
In closing, it is important to note that there are many teenage mothers who have overcome the statistics but that the majority of these cases tend to follow the same pattern of dependency (Julie, 2013). It is difficult to determine where the line should be drawn between personal decisions and social responsibility. However, continuing to study cases through the concept of social imagination should create a sense of personal responsibility to the larger society.