Low teen birthrate shows youths making better choices, experts say
While national advocacy groups point to different reasons, The National Campaign gives some perhaps unexpected credit to shows like "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" for fewer births to teenagers. While adults may worry the shows glamorize teen pregnancy and make raising babies while young look easy, Albert believes that teens have a different take. When the National Campaign asked teens what they think of the shows, 80 percent responded that they make the challenges real and the teens on the show are not viewed as lucky or glamorous. They become a kind of anti-role model.
It's likely that the economy has slowed teens, too.
"I don't want to sound naive here," said Albert. "I'm not suggesting teens are checking their 401(k)" before engaging in sexual activity. "But they are very keen observers of the world around them — sponges. It's reasonable, I think, to suggest that if in their own families they've had to cut back or the parent of a best friend across the street has been unemployed for a while, why would that not be sobering for them? In 2007, since the economy started tanking, the teen birth rate has gone down by one-third. There's something about this five-year period and I think the economy is part of the explanation."
What hasn't changed, experts note, is reasons not to become sexually active or pregnant prematurely. Studies consistently show that fewer than 40 percent of teen mothers manage to earn a high school diploma, let alone go to college. The U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health reports that "serious and exclusive dating relationships can lead adolescents to have sex earlier than they would have otherwise" and those who have sex at an early age are more likely to engage is sexually risky behavior.
It also reported that "teen parents face multiple risks for poor life outcomes.... Children born to adolescents face particular challenges — they are more likely to have poorer educational, behavioral and health outcomes throughout their lives, as compared to children born to older parents."
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