Teen Pregnancy: Risk Factors and Intervention
We like to think of our society as progressive and capable of solving our social ills one problem at a time, but the fact of the matter is that, among industrialized nations, the U.S. leads the way in teen pregnancy. Currently, 4 out of every 10 girls in the U.S. will become pregnant by their 20th birthday.
What Causes Teen Pregnancy
Aside from the obvious answer of engaging in sex, the factors that contribute to a teen being at-risk for teenage pregnancy can become very complex. Some of the risk factors include:
* Living in poverty.
* Being the child of a single parent, or being the child of teen parents.
* Being reared in an abusive environment.
* Involvement in drug and alcohol use and abuse.
* Having low self-esteem.
* Poor performance in school.
* Being in multiple foster care homes.
* Ongoing family conflict.
* Lack of parental supervision.
Approaches to Intervention
There have basically been three strategies for bringing down the numbers associated with teen pregnancy since they reached an all-time high in the ‘90’s:
* Abstinence-only educational programs. The Institute of Medicine reports that of 13 studies done evaluating abstinence-only educational programs, none have had a positive impact on the sexual behavior of teens.
* Sex-education. According to some studies, a comprehensive sex-education program that includes abstinence as well as other contraceptive methods, can delay sexual behavior in teens. Other studies indicate, however, that the current programs are not age-specific enough, nor do they fully inform the student on pertinent topics. In fact, according to questionnaires given to students, teens are learning more from television or the Internet that at school in sex-ed class.
* Youth development programs. Programs geared toward teens that have a sexual education component, as well as a mentoring component may be the most effective way to postpone sexual activity in teenagers. In addition to teaching leadership, social responsibility, job-related skills, and other important life skills, these types of programs often create a sense of emotional security and well-being that ultimately leads to a more positive self-image. These programs often empower teens to have the confidence to make better decisions.
It should be noted that no education-based program can take the place of open communication with loving parents. When researchers asked teens who they would like to go to for accurate information about sex, the answer most given was a parent. Social scientists believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that teens who receive constant guidance from caring and engaged parents become more well-adjusted and much more capable of making responsible choices.
Klein JD and the committee on adolescence. Adolescent pregnancy: Current trends and issues.
Kohler PK, Manhart LE, Lafferty WE. Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy.