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Tuning in to teen pregnancy

Teen pregnancies are on the rise for the first time in a decade. Could TV be partly to blame?

A new report on the increased incidence of pregnancy among teenagers comes at a time when TV viewers have ample opportunity to watch shows about pregnant teens. Some shows, such as ABC Family's "The Secret Life of an American Teenager," make the situation seem, if not fun, at least bearable, and in some ways an enhancement of the teen mom's social life. Others, including MTV's series "Teen Mom" (a followup to last season's "16 and Pregnant") make clear that becoming pregnant as a teen is a gritty ordeal.

Teens, impressionable and otherwise, can also watch the Lifetime movie The Pregnancy Pact, a story inspired by the purported pact among a group of Massachusetts high-schoolers to get pregnant at the same time. The 2007 movie Juno made clear that pregnancy's not much fun and that raising a child is a task for mature people only. And my beloved "Glee" features a pregnant teenager who's none too happy about her predicament, especially since she's been kicked off the cheerleading squad AND out of her parents' home.

Recent research shows that kids who watch shows with sexual content are more likely than others to engage in sexual behavior. But watching sexy shows is different from watching shows about pregnant girls. The latter, I'd venture, are much less likely to titillate.

People have been discussing this issue since well before "Juno" appeared. (Remember 1998's made-for-TV "Fifteen and Pregnant" starring Kirsten Dunst?) I'll add my two cents and hand it over to you readers. As the mom of a teenaged girl, I welcome these shows because my daughter and I can sit down to watch them together and talk about what they mean. She of course finds them riveting, but she's smart enough to put them in perspective without my guidance. If she weren't that mature, I'd be grateful for the opportunity to help shape her understanding by discussing the life of the pregnant teen girl, whether it's portrayed as glamorous or grueling.

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By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  January 28, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Motherhood , Sex , Teens , Women's Health  
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Next: Is that Right? Loud music ruined baby boomers' hearing?


Are you serious? TV didn't get the teen pregnant - it can't biologically reproduce. The two teens involved got pregnant. TV, if anything, reflects the sad loss of anything approximating morality in this country!

Posted by: gm123 | January 28, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Ahem...there are an awful lot of ladies these days who think that it is okay to have children, and raise them in a single parent home. I wouldn't blame TV, or popular media; it is a reflection of society's tastes and wants.

Lot of ladies do not want to be in traditional relationships, and often go it alone, because, well, that's what other ladies demonstrate as role models.

They're not actors, no. They're everywoman, at least everywoman who imagines that men are not suitable parent material.

So they go it alone, and TV is simply reflecting what's happening in society.

Men are not a requirement of having children, according to many women.

This is a surprise to you?

Posted by: pgibson1 | January 28, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The question should probably be more to the effect, "does media portrayal of teen pregnancies, as positive and with good outcomes, influence teen culture towards increased acceptance".

From what little I know of teenagers, one of the few things that _really_ influences the attitudes of teenage girls is the attitude of her peers. If her peers all see teen pregnancy as acceptable, or even desirable, any given teen is probably more likely to get pregnant.

Proof of this could be seen through surveys of areas which have different teen pregnancy rates.

I think that we would confirm something already widely established as the prevailing wisdom, that certain subcultures have very high levels of acceptance of teen pregnancy, and also have high levels of teen pregnancy.

Much wisdom is to be gained from the CDC's "vital statistics" section, which does an age-by-age comparison between the races. In the 13-15 age group, for example, "hispanics" of any race have almost 6 times the teen pregnancy rate of whites and black COMBINED.

Posted by: thardman | January 28, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

stay tuned - we'll find out at 11

Surely we can't blame the Huckabees' abstinence education - Bristol Palin is living proof.

It has to be TV's or Obama's fault (even though the survey occurred in 2008 on George the Dumber's watch)

Posted by: coloradodog | January 28, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Who are you people? Go commit suicide.

Posted by: dlkimura | January 28, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

This teen pregnancy report is based on 2006 preganancy rates. None of these shows were even around then. This is a silly discussion.

Posted by: pbodanza | January 29, 2010 5:52 AM | Report abuse

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