Guest post by Mariel
A few days ago, the Guttmacher Institute came out with a report stating that teenage pregnancy rates have been increasing since 2005. This information comes as an unpleasant surprise to the public because the rates had been steadily decreasing since the early 90s.
But is this really that surprising?
There have been signs of this increase was occurring in the past few years:
1) Sex in the media is on the rise. In the past 5 years, there has been a large presence and acceptableness of sexual activity in movies, on TV, in advertisements, etc. Many contribute this increase to the sexual revolution that is currently going on in our country. Compared to the revolution of the 60s and 70s, it is not as radical and therefore not as noticeable, but it is as influential just the same.
In 2008, Time had an article about how sex on TV influences teen pregnancy rates. “They found that teens exposed to the most sexual content on TV are twice as likely as teens watching less of this material to become pregnant before they reach age 20.” TV shows such as Beverly Hills 90210 and Gossip Girl contain frequent sexual activity and influence teens to start being sexual active at an earlier age. A lot of the actors on the shows are a lot older than the characters they are playing, which causes them to act more mature and skew the realistic-ness of the content. Movies such as Juno and Knocked Up glamorize pregnancy but do not show the harsh reality of what happens when you have a young child.
2) Lifetime has just premiered a new movie called The Pregnancy Pact, which tells the story of a group of girls in high school who decide to get pregnant together. As ridiculous as this sounds, this is the true story of a Massachusetts fishing town who experienced a drastic increase in teenage pregnancy in 2008. The fact that 17 girls found it desirable to intentionally get pregnant is scary. The girls got pregnant for the wrong reasons. Not because they thought they had stable partners and were ready to move onto a new chapter in their lives, but because they wanted to form some kind of human connection. There was obviously something missing in their lives if they found it necessary to create new circumstances where they could form a community of mothers and children when they were between the ages of 15 and 18. Just because their pregnancies were planned does not mean that they were okay. There is clearly a miscommunication between someone and these girls, whether it be their parents, their schooling (both social and educational), the media, or society in general.
3) While there has been an increase in pregnancy rates in general, the rates of pregnancy in foster care has skyrocketed in the past few years. In 2009, Time came out with a report about how teen pregnancy has hit epidemic levels in foster care. Almost 50% of all females in foster care have been pregnant at least once by age 19. This shows that an overwhelming majority of foster teens are having sex at an early age. Almost 50% of teenagers in foster care have sex before the age of 16 compared to 30% of children not in foster care.
Teens are not getting enough information about sex and pregnancy because of their unfortunate situations. The social workers dealing with their cases are focused on finding them a home in the first place so they don’t focus on making sure these teens get a proper sex education. The unstable environments that these teens are living in are breeding grounds (literally).
People are quick to assume that this raise in pregnancy rates is a direct result to the absence of good sex education. While this is probably one attributing factor, the Guttmacher Institute has found no clear connection between abstinence-only education and high rates of teenage pregnancy.