Teen Pregnancy Prevention
The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one-third of girls get pregnant before the age of 20. There is much debate about whether teaching abstinence or contraceptive practices are more effective, but regardless of your opinion on this issue, it is absolutely crucial that adults talk to youth about sex and unplanned pregnancy. Research consistently shows that parents are the most important influencers on a teen’s sex life.
Teach the Consequences
Teens have a difficult time understanding the connection between present actions and future consequences. Adults should take the time to help them understand the ramifications of pregnancy:
- Teenage mothers are much more likely to drop out of high school. Only one-third of teen mothers receive a high school diploma, leaving them with fewer skills to secure good employment.
- Only 1.5% of teenage mothers have a college degree by age 30.
- Teen mothers are more likely to end up on welfare (nearly 80 percent of unmarried teen mothers end up on welfare).
- Newborns of teen mothers tend to have a lower birth weight. As they get older, they are more likely to do poorly in school and have a greater chance of experiencing abuse and neglect.
- Eight out of ten fathers of teen pregnancies do not marry the mother of their child. The majority of teenage mothers remain single parents.
- Two-thirds of families begun by a young unmarried mother are poor.
Teen pregnancy also can be hard on teen fathers. The pregnancy can strain their relationships with their girlfriend and with their parents. And teen fathers do not go as far in school and make less money when they get in the job market than teens who do not father children. If they decide to not marry the mother of their child, they must pay child support until the child is 18.
The chances that children will delay sex, pregnancy, and parenthood are significantly increased if their future appears bright. This means adults should help youth set meaningful goals for the future, talk to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and help them reach their goals.
Three of four girls and over half of boys report that girls who have sex do so because their boyfriends want them to. But interestingly, this thought process has been rebuked by a recent survey. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Seventeen magazine conducted a survey of 1,200 boys and men ages 15-22. Two-thirds (66%) say they would rather have a girlfriend but no sex compared to only one-third (34%) who say they would prefer to have sex but no girlfriend. Only 6% of guys say they’ve ever broken up with someone because she wouldn’t have sex with him. Nearly three out of four (73%) say they have more respect for girls who say no to sex. Three out of four (74%) say teens and young adults take sex too lightly. Adults should consider sharing this information with their teen during their talks. You can obtain the survey results at this link: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/pubs/ThatsWhatHeSaid.pdf
Experts offer these tips for parents to help prevent teen pregnancy.
- Keep communication between you and your teen (both boys and girls) open so that talking about sex is easier to broach.
- Be approachable so that if your teenager has questions about sex or relationships, you can be ready with answers.
- Teach your family values and help your teen see how much they are worth. Explain that no one should be able to make him or her feel like they have to be sexually active.
- Encourage safe and fun activities and sports. Show them their strengths and keep education a top priority.
- Watch for warning signs of heavy relationships with the opposite sex. Also watch for signs of depression or a drop off in previously enjoyed activities. You may need to take further steps to help them avoid becoming sexually promiscuous.
- Teach your teenager the problems associated with unsafe sex. Show him or her the diseases that can result as well as the threat of unplanned pregnancy.
- Know what your teenager is doing and where they like to hang out. Make your home an open place for your teenager’s friends and encourage fun activities at responsible and respected places.
1-800-230-PLAN – 24 hour hotline will direct you to the clinic nearest to you.
America’s Pregnancy Helpline
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
Talking to Teens About Sex