A recent report detailing a sharp decline in rates of pregnancy and abortion among teenagers is by itself positive news. Perhaps more interestingly, it reveals a perspective on the social attitudes of members of the millennial generation that runs counter to stereotype.
A report by the Guttmacher Institute shows that rates of pregnancy among teenage females in 2010 — the latest full year for which data is available — have declined 51 percent since a high in 1990. The fall-off has been most pronounced in recent years, measuring 15 percent since 2008. Equally significant, there has also been a drop in rates of abortion: down 66 percent since 1988.
Some public health experts believe that the declines are tied to educational programs and greater access to contraception. Others see evidence of changing attitudes about sex among teenagers.
In an article in the Deseret News National Edition, Bill Albert, a spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said, “I think we adults are simply reluctant to give credit where credit is due. Teenagers themselves are clearly making better decisions.”
That suggestion is bolstered by other data in the Guttmacher research, including evidence that teenagers are waiting longer before having sex. The number of never-married females ages 15-19 who report having had sex before age 15 declined by nearly half: from 19 percent in 1995 to 11 percent in 2008. Among males, the percentage fell from 21 percent to 14 percent.
The most common reason teenagers gave for not engaging in sexual behavior is because it is “against religion or morals.” Thirty eight percent of females and 31 percent of males cited such reasoning, according to the study.
The data rebuts some adult perceptions about the generation born between 1990 and early 2000s. More than half of the adults questioned in surveys incorrectly believe that teen pregnancy rates are on the rise. They "think teen culture and culture in general are heading south and teenagers are leading the charge. They are unwilling to believe, particularly when it comes to sex, that teenagers are making better decisions," Albert said.
This evidence suggests that better decisions are indeed being made. A more grounded and sensible attitude about personal health and social behavior bodes well for them and for the society they will inherit as adults.