Saturday, November 19, 2011

less teen pregnancy

A preliminary analysis of 2010 birth records has revealed that the teen birth rate in the United States is the lowest it has been in over 70 years.

In 2007, about 40 girls for every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 became pregnant.  In 2010, there were about 34 births for every 1,000 teenage girls.

This article states that some public health experts were concerned about the spotlighting of high-profile teen moms (like in 16 and Pregnant); that it would "glamorize" teen pregnancy and possibly encourage higher rates of teen pregnancy.  I remember feeling that way.  I remembering worrying about the effects of the movie Juno, and that the reality tv shows and media spotlights of young famous pregnant actresses would only highlight the fun, cute, heart-warming and rewarding aspects of being a mom, regardless of one's age.  I remember wondering if there would be a sudden spike in the number of girls who thought they could get "extra attention" by becoming pregnant.

But, within the last three years the rates of teen pregnancy have decreased.  Maybe the media did a very good job of depicting what life is really like for a mom - absolutely wonderful and magical, and rewarding and fun - but also full of sacrifice, a word and concept often missing - or avoided - during the teenage years.  The article mentions that "better sex education in schools" may be the cause of the decreased teen birth rate, but maybe all of the media attention was actually more helpful than we ever could have predicted it would be.


Nathan said...

I don't think the TV shows have much to do with it. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a significant correlation between a girl being at a high risk of teenage pregnancy after exposure to the media, and having already been at risk before the exposure.

If you want a better view of the issue, you should start by breaking things down by state and race:

Figure 2 in the second report (the data labels are wrong, from the top: 15-19, 18-19, 15-17) it suggests that the decrease in pregnancy rate for the 15-17 group has not decreased as rapidly as the 18-19 group.

Figures 3 and 4 in the same report suggest that within each of the age groups, the disparity in pregnancy rate between races is different, as well as the decreases in pregnancy rate within a given age range and race.

This seems to suggest significant cultural and/or socioeconomic shifts. Step back and the picture becomes even more interesting. This report is on the average age of first time mothers:

Figure two seems to suggest that the distribution between age ranges (under 20, 20-34, 35 and older) has largely shifted in a way that keeps the 20-34 range close to the same proportion between 1985-2005 (it shrunk in the mid 90's, but returned to the same proportion by 2003).

Figure 4 suggests that the rate of increase in average age of a mother at first birth is fairly evenly distributed across race and origin.

All in all, I am pleased with the direction things are headed. I like the decrease in teenage pregnancy rates across all the age, race, and origin groups, as well as the universal increase in the average age at first birth.

Liz said...

Interesting! Way to go to the source. I agree with your point that those at highest risk for teen pregnancy are likely not influenced much by media exposure. Better sex education and availability of birth control are likely causative factors, which makes sense for the decreased rate for 18-19 year old girls.

Keely said...

I really hope so! Teen Mom really freaked me out- since I already came from a town where teen pregnancy is very common.

Glad to know more girls are taking becoming a mom seriously.