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Why Are Teen Births Rising?

The recent increase in teen births appears to be primarily the result of a decrease in contraceptive use, especially condoms, according to new research out today.

After declining for 14 years, the teen birth rate increased in 2006 and then again in 2007, causing alarm that one of the nation's most successful public health campaigns was faltering.

In an effort to understand why the teen birth rate was creeping up again, John Santelli of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and his colleagues analyzed data collected by the federal government's Youth Risk Behavior Survey from young women nationwide in grades 9 through 12.

In an article being published in the July issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, Santelli and his colleagues report that the increase does not appear to be the result of a rise in sexual activity. Although teen sexual activity might have risen slightly between 2001 and 2003, it appears to have remained fairly flat since then, the researchers found.

Instead, the researchers found that there appears to have been a subtle decrease in contraceptive use, including a slight increase in the use of the withdrawal method and the proportion of teens reporting no contraceptive use. But perhaps most importantly there was a small but significant drop in condom use, which fell from about 57 percent to about 55 percent from 2003 to 2007.

The study did not examine why these trends occurred. But Santelli says it could be due to a number of factors, including rising complacency about the AIDS epidemic and safe sex to protect against HIV. But Santelli also says the recent increased focus on encouraging kids to remain abstinent until marriage instead of teaching them about contraceptive may also be at least partly to blame.

Now, that's highly controversial, and disputed by advocates of sex education programs that focus on abstinence. But the Obama administration recently announced plans to cut funding for such programs and only fund those that have been proven to work.

By Rob Stein  |  June 18, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , General Health , Health Policy , Motherhood , Teens , Women's Health  
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Comments

To bring back an old joke--

Q: What do you call couples who practice the rhythm method?

A: Parents!

Posted by: dotellen | June 18, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Could it partly be do to theocratic evangelicals like Palin who have replaced sex education responsibility including condom use with "abstinence"? Or maybe many teens believe the Pope when he says condoms cause AIDS.

Posted by: coloradodog | June 18, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Ugh, of course it's a lack of comprehensive education.

Posted by: MzFitz | June 18, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

The real question we should be asking, is how we have managed to get teen pregnancies to the lowest level they have been in the history of our country? A slight increase after decades of falling hardly makes a trend we should panic about.

Posted by: glmory | June 18, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Teens have been having babies since our species began. Has anyone bought a condom recently? They cost over a dollar each.

It would be great if the government set price controls for condoms or subsidized the price. They can't cost more than five cents each to manufacturer. This is an outrageous profit. Is it possible that the pharmaceutical industry makes condoms?

Posted by: alance | June 18, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

A dollar per condom is a lot cheaper than the cost of raising a child or the cost of treating an STI. And there are plenty of places to get free condoms (Planned Parenthood, college health centers, etc). If you can't afford to buy condoms or aren't responsible enough to seek out free ones, perhaps you need to consider (gasp) not having sex.

Posted by: shlymadrid | June 18, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

There might also be an increase in PEDOPHILIA--the primary cause of teen pregnancy.

Posted by: IIntgrty | June 18, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Another legacy of the worst U.S. president in history, GWB. I’d like to say that it would please me to hear that most teen pregnancies are in red states, but the problem with that is that even more idiots would be born.

Posted by: miknugget | June 18, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Back in the day when I was a teen there was a considerable social stigma with being a single pregnant teen.

It was enough to make a girl like myself venture out to a doctor and get contraception.

Now days that stigma seems diminished. You've got Bristol Palin, you've got Jamie Spears, you've got Juno - being a pregnant un-married teen doesn't seem to be the end of the world - it's almost a normal thing!

I'm not sure that it's a bad thing for the social stigma to be diminished. At least the children of these teens won't have to go through life hiding their origins.

Posted by: RedBird27 | June 18, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Scientists have a special name for women who rely on abstinence and withdrawal as their birth control methods instead of contraceptives. They're called "mothers".

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | June 18, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

One thing that seems to have been left out; 50 years ago society started holding 14 year olds responsible for their actions and expected them to behave as adults. 75 years ago 14 year olds were adults. Things were not sugar-coated and not everyone was a winner. Now days, it is common for 24 years-olds to know little about being adults.

I am sure the rate of teens having sex have remained constant for all of humanity. As a parent, I have the responsibility to prepare my child(ren) to be responsible adults and the best way is to start the day they are born.

Posted by: skramsv | June 18, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

While I agree that abstinence-based sex education programs are not effective, I have to ask, why are we relying on the government to teach our kids about sex and contraception? Sex education begins in the home. I can not speak for the boys, but sex education for me began with my mother teaching me that sex and love and intimacy are not the same things and that girls don't have to have sex for boys to like them. Sex education for me included health class, numerous informal talks with my mother and the trip to talk to the counselors at planned parenthood. Education about contraceptives included information about various methods as well discussing multiple options if I were to discover I was pregnant. Women and girls today have more options than ever, including abstinence, but they need to know about all of their options and they need to know who they are before making the decision to begin having sex.

Posted by: heatherp1973 | June 18, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Contraceptive use has not proved itself the better method. If it was, it would have cured the AIDS problem in Third World years ago. Obama wants to get rid of no-sex programs which is absolutely wrong. In those cultures or communities where parents uphold good moral values and the kids actually respect their parents (meaning they don't hide and have sex), no-sex programs work. The problem is the parents not teaching their children what sex is really about (love between a man and woman in marriage). Instead, society wants "its cake and eat it too". They don't want to teach responsibility of the body or individual but instead teach children by example (go and do whatever you want and have fun doing it). Life is not about pleasure seeking.

Posted by: kaylancor | June 18, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the comment about making teens RESPONSIBLE. Just because people in Hollywood have babies and adopt babies on a whim does not mean that a 14 year-old can handle the emotional, mental, physical and financial RESPONSIBILITES of raising a child.
Wake up people, stop placing the blame on the education system. Parents' need to take the RESPONSIBILITY for raising and instilling VALUES and MORALS in their own children.
Wake up America, stop relying strictly on government to "fix" all of our problems.

Posted by: philly2va | June 18, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to see the break out by ethnic group, rather than clump all teens together.

It it is shown that illegal aliens, or the children of illegal aliens are actively involved in unprotected sex, even a 14 year old knows the benefit of the anchor babies they give birth to - regardless of age.

Posted by: asmith1 | June 18, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

"I have to ask, why are we relying on the government to teach our kids about sex and contraception?"

We are not relying on the government to teach YOUR kids about sex education...we are relying on the government to teach other people's kids about sex education. I agree with you post, it should begin at home. You parents sound like they were fantastic. The reality is that many parents are not fantastic. This is not something we can leave to chance.

Posted by: kal66 | June 18, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"Life is not about pleasure seeking."
-kaylancor

I tend to disagree with the statement, and with many of the other points made in this post. If it is your religion that guides you to live your life this way, you do not have the right to force that on me. It's known as the first Amendment. I believe in living life to it's fullest, while being a productive and responsible member of society. Some of those pleasures include a healthy view of sexuality.

I will teach my children about healthy sexuality from a young age, but hope that the schools will supplement the biological portion for me. It's also important that healthy sexuality education be a part of the curriculum because not all children are exposed to this in the home. Parents may be uneducated themselves, or just plain nervous to talk about it. When responsible, comprehensive sex education is restored to classrooms across the country, we all win. Even those who choose abstinence until marriage will win, as they will have been armed with the information that they'll need for family planning and pleasure.

Posted by: MzFitz | June 18, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to see the break out by ethnic group, rather than clump all teens together.

It it is shown that illegal aliens, or the children of illegal aliens are actively involved in unprotected sex, even a 14 year old knows the benefit of the anchor babies they give birth to - regardless of age.

Posted by: asmith1 | June 18, 2009 3:06 PM

Actually, most of these "anchor babies" are a product of rape. Why would a 14 year old, who cannot support herself or receive government assistance, intentionally impregnate herself?

Posted by: MzFitz | June 18, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

The anti-abortionists must be tickled pink by this news.

They're also against contraception.


Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | June 18, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

kaylancor wrote:
"Contraceptive use has not proved itself the better method. If it was, it would have cured the AIDS problem in Third World years ago."

Um, contraceptive use HAS proven itself the better method. The reason it hasn't "cured the AIDS problem in the Third World" is probably a combination of the Third World not being able to afford contraceptives, combined with foolish statements from political and religious leaders in regard to their use and effectiveness.

Posted by: presto668 | June 18, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

kaylancor,

I disagree with your post in the first degree.

"Contraceptive use has not proved itself the better method. If it was, it would have cured the AIDS problem in Third World years ago."

This is flawed, because you are operating under the assumption that these people have been educated on condom use and have acess to condoms. Many people in the third world have NO access to ANY birth control, a situation no enhanced by the fact that Bush cut off funding for family planning programs, if they even said the word abortion. Having the Pope telling these people that condoms make AIDS worse didn't help either. Kudos to the WHO for putting the smackdown on the Pope making such a comment. He nearly undid all the efforts the WHO put for the contain the AIDS epidemic.

"Obama wants to get rid of no-sex programs which is absolutely wrong. In those cultures or communities where parents uphold good moral values and the kids actually respect their parents (meaning they don't hide and have sex), no-sex programs work."

Really? What data supports this wild claim? And can you name communities like this? How naive and foolish to think that a teen from a good family won't have sex.

"The problem is the parents not teaching their children what sex is really about (love between a man and woman in marriage)."

Agreed that parents need to talk about sex. But not every parent does. And people have sex, whether you like it or not. So, isn't it better they have birth control and know how to use it?

"Instead, society wants "its cake and eat it too". They don't want to teach responsibility of the body or individual but instead teach children by example (go and do whatever you want and have fun doing it)."

Well, cake is tasty! Of course I want to eat it :) That IS the point. No one is teaching children about their bodies, how they work, what sex is about, the consequences, and options. Teens need to learn the FACTS. They need to know they don't have to have sex, if they don't want to, but if they choose to have sex, this is how to prevent possible unpleasant circumstances (pregnancy/STIs).

"Life is not about pleasure seeking."

What is life about then? There is no pleasure in your life that you would actively seek out?

Posted by: jromaniello | June 18, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

History:
Courtship was dominate from man's inception to the 40's. We watched something new from the Beatnick's era (pre-mid 60's shift to the emergence of "free love and the flower power" hippie movement.
In this group there is clearly the MAJOR change to widespread promiscous relationships, rise in rapes, and adultery and even bigamy relationships. Not surprising was the rise in the serial criminals coming out of the closet.

These various relationships bore children who are among us now, as adults. For those that were spared abortion.

What they do, clearly determines the mindset of what is really a threat to mankind and women, or just false pretenses based on paranoia that victim's children or children out of wedlock become misfits, monsters, and serial criminals.

For one, you will NEVER get an accurate count, as many women and men have lent themselves to cover up the facts of these off spring for an honest count. Yes some are brave enough to tell us who they are and how they got here, but not always as well, is some don't even know who they're real parents are and what's the story. These mainly are people more victimized by institutionalism, neglect, and children of parents murdered (children received psychiatric help) and new lives, never to look back again.

Socially this is our makeup of the circumstances that face unwed mothers, too young to be mothers, too irresponsible to be fathers or too much in the crime scene as a suspect, if not in jail.

It is far eaiser to say have the child, but it is also harder to say to those that want them to keep the child - here's a job, here's some health care, here's a home, here's my house and family as your immediate foster family, here's your year supply of food and education. Have the child, they say. Then when the child is born, the mother is ridiculed as poor trash, welfare low life and (add racial expletive here). Oh don't forget the same old tired "bootstrap" line from the old gray haired, patoon spitting, porch sitting ignoramous complaining about, there goes the neighborhood.

Simple education and reality seminars insted of (the same old sheet, the FAITH BASERS got MILLIONS for for the so called abstenance, if not getting away with rape, molesting themselves), as well as poorly run, unaccountable and God will take care of it.

Well what do you know - Hyporcites.

Abortion is ugly but its uglier when those who impose, don't show up to back up their claim of a BETTER WAY and LIFE, even using their Lord's house.

Posted by: kurtbw | June 18, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Studies have found that between 11 and 20 percent of pregnancies in teenagers are a direct result of rape, while about 60 percent of teenage mothers had unwanted sexual experiences preceding their pregnancy. Before age 15, a majority of first-intercourse experiences among females are reported to be non-voluntary; the Guttmacher Institute found that 60 percent of girls who had sex before age 15 were coerced by males who on average were six years their senior.
Multiple studies have indicated a strong link between early childhood sexual abuse and subsequent teenage pregnancy in industrialized countries. Up to 70 percent of women who gave birth in their teens were molested as young girls.

Posted by: IIntgrty | June 18, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Increase in teen pregnancy is not related to increased sexual activity....uhm, ok...

Posted by: luca_20009 | June 18, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Duh, it's the education (or lack of) that's causing increased teen pregnancies. Thank you, Republicans. That's what you get when you promote abstinence-only programs that ignore the realities that teens have sex. You are left with teenagers that are completely ignorant.

The Palin family is the perfect example of what's wrong with abstinence-only education.

Posted by: g99999 | June 18, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

As a college student and member of the Republican Majority for Choice I am sad to hear about this new trend. Efforts must be made at both the federal and state levels to ensure that teens are getting accurate sex education that includes information on contraception, STD prevention, and pregnancy prevention. You would think that with the US having the highest rate of teen pregnancy out of industrialized nations and one in every 4 women between the ages of 14-19 being infected with a common STD, that we would want to implement programs that have been proven to work. The government needs to provide programs to our youth that allow them to make real world decisions and be educated on everyday risks.


Posted by: jennw076 | June 18, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Contraceptives are the only sure cure for this ailment of society. ABSTINENCE DOES NOT WORK; IT DOES NOT because nobody practices it. As long as you are in a relationship, you need to protect yourselves against unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Teenagers are not being taught how to protect themselves at home nor school and that is why unwanted pregnancies are on the rise and will continue to do so until sexual education becomes a priority in both home and school.

Posted by: pcca | June 18, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The leader of the Republican party didn't use birth control, her daughter didn't use birth control. Why should anyone else use birth control? If the gays can't get married, why should the straights. It looks like marriage is becoming very old fashioned.

Posted by: mail5billh1 | June 18, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Top 10 states for per capita teen pregancy

1. Nevada (113)
2. Arizona (104)
3. Mississippi (103)
4. New Mexico (103)
5. Texas (101)
6. Florida (97)
7. California (96)
8. Georgia (95)
9. North Carolina (95)
10. Arkansas (93)

Brilliant -- lots of Blue states in there!

Posted by: msgrinnell | June 18, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: MzFitz | June 18, 2009 3:09 PM

Actually, most of these "anchor babies" are a product of rape. Why would a 14 year old, who cannot support herself or receive government assistance, intentionally impregnate herself?.....

Actually, anchor babies are a choice by most illegal aliens. A 14 year old would intentionally impregnate herself to "anchor" herself in the country, using her American born child.

While pregnant through the delivery, she receives free medical care.

After the birth, she receives a plethora of benefits and services on behalf of her anchor baby.

I would however agree that a rape has occurred - a rape of American tax payers who are expected to pick up the tab for these millions of illegitimate children.

Posted by: asmith1 | June 18, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

You might want to consider that the country has been filling every nook and cranny with Illegal aliens and that would make an amazing rise in the increased teen pregnancies .

Posted by: noHUCKABEEnoVOTE | June 18, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Show me a single mom and I'll show you a parasite draining the system. Single moms somehow feel they can breed all they want and our (sick) society rewards them for their behavior with programs such as WIC,foodstamps,Medicaid,etc.Single moms somehow have the narcissistic assumption that one is "entitled" to "the experience" of childbearing.

Posted by: jellyhouse56 | June 18, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

We need SEX-ED. I just found out the largest HIV dating&support site Positivefish. com. It has more than 500,000 members!
OMG! Why so many guys and girls on the site are very sexy? Why so many people infect HIV?

Posted by: stdsgirl | June 18, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Well.. Condom can reduce the opportunity of getting HIV. A survey from CDC shows that there are more than 550,000 people joined the std dating & support commnunity positivefishes.com and the number are increasing by hundreds everyday! Amazing !

Posted by: keithstdnews | June 18, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

All you people who refer to innocent babies as anchor babies digust me, I'm sure that was one of James von Brunns favorite terms to use, yes I am comparing those of you who use that term to him.

Posted by: devilsadvoc8 | June 19, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

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