Alarmist Approaches to Teen Pregnancy Trumping Efforts to Help Teen Parents Succeed

Last week the latest news about teen pregnancy statistics made quiet headlines: “Teen Pregnancy Rate Drops to Lowest Ever Recorded, CDC Says.” If the rates had increased we would have likely heard more about the news, but the CDC data did in fact confirm that teen pregnancy rates have continued their steady decline across all demographic groups in the United States.

Unfortunately touting these statistics tells only one part of the story. Missing are the statistics that might actually tell us more about how teen parents are doing. I’ve written before about how the focus on teen pregnancy prevention leaves parenting teens in the dark. In addition to feeling the adverse effects of stigma-based prevention programs, many of the resources and much of the funding goes to prevent future teen pregnancies, rather than figuring out how to help current teen parents succeed.

The dropping teen pregnancy rates don’t tell us whether teen parents are surpassing the various hurdles placed in their path to staying out of poverty, getting an education, avoiding health problems. It’s worth pointing out that many of the statistics correlating teen pregnancy and poverty could be blamed on the fact that many of the teens who get pregnant are already at a higher risk for poverty and the other outcomes we see. For example, a recent study linked lower levels of pre-teen literacy with higher likelihood of becoming a teen parent. So when we hear about high school drop out rates and teen parents, there may have already been factors pre-pregnancy that increased the likelihood of not finishing high school (like lower literacy levels).

Some of the teens who get pregnant may have ended up living in poverty anyway, whether they had gotten pregnant or not. That means that resources put toward the social safety net, toward reducing poverty and  improving education for all people could also improve the lives of teen parents.

We should be focusing on allocating resources to support all parents—including teens—to ensure the best possible outcomes for their kids. Unfortunately these efforts don’t get the kind of attention (or funding) that teen pregnancy rates and prevention efforts do. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a child at a young age—the problem is the barriers erected by our society and economy that make parenting young more difficult.

The new CDC data also shows that those between the ages of 20 to 29 are also waiting longer to become parents, so it seems that there is a decline in births in all age groups, and the average age of pregnancy continues to creep up. This is likely indicative of better access to contraception as well as an economy that rewards early career building and makes entering the workforce post-parenting more challenging.

The crusade against teen pregnancy and parenting should be replaced with programs that support all parents, and make sure that our safety net doesn’t keep anyone in poverty, regardless of age or family size. Unfortunately it’s hard to counter these “teen parents are the boogeyman” narratives. They are everywhere, and very rarely questioned. Even an article in CBS news reporting on the declining rates included this quote from pop doctor Drew Pinsky:

“”We are in a woeful shape,” television’s Dr. Drew Pinsky told HealthPop in a previous article about teen pregnancy. “The strange thing about the entirety of the sexual revolution is that no one even thought this sexual revolution thing hoisted by adults was raining down on teenagers and young adults. It’s had dire, dire consequences.””

That’s alarmism at it’s best. In actuality, poverty, racism, and stigma toward teen parents has had dire, dire consequences. Alarmism about age and pregnancy may be common, but support for real solutions to help parents succeed is harder to come by.

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  • chris-in-nm

    Actually, there is a “program” that will help teens deal with pregnancy in an honorable fashion. That “program” is called marriage. Any activity that will contribute to teen pregnancy (sexual intercourse) outside of marriage is selfish and dishonorable behavior that, in principle, will result in bringing a child into this world without the stable environment they need to develop and become responsible adults.

    Children need to be shown by example that a husband and wife can cooperate for a lifetime, even when one may not be behaving like they ought. More government money thrown at programs that “support all parents” will not solve the problem. We need to be teaching children to abstain from sex outside of marriage and promoting marriages that last a lifetime. As a side benefit, if everyone did this, sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS would be virtually non-existent within two or three generations, which would save the country billions in the long term. 

  • person-0

    Sorry, but you’ll have to try something that actually works. Since over 90% of Americans have sex before marriage and 41% of babies born are out of wedlock, the focus obviously lies elsewhere. Join us here in reality, won’t you?

  • give-em-hell-mary

    What about disfigured old maids like me (burned by my anti-choice terrorist mom) who will NEVER get marriage proposals??  Should I die a virgin like the disabled 58-year-old virgin troll ljean8080 who posts here?  And what about people born intersexed from “Natural” Family UNplanning “mishaps” who can’t legally marry any gender in most states?  And did you know faithful couples can still get nasty deadly infections from childbirth bladder and bowel incontinence fistulas?  Childbirth causes a zillion other gruesome and bankrupting injuries that repulse husbands into adultery, incest and divorce court!  Why do you think straight priests eschew personal monogamy to aging, incontinent brood mares like their moms, etc.?  Sex before marriage would have saved naive virgins like a former neighbor from marrying a closet military gay who refused to touch her even after their wedding!  Sex before marriage is certainly better than no sex at all in one’s lifetime!  No sex at all is for the brain-dead!  As for AIDS, blame only the anti-condom, orphan-making, orphan-raping Vatican!  Condom use could wipe out AIDS almost over night!  But then, priests would have no orphans to molest!

  • ljean8080

    it is a mainly happy one.i am not a troll.

  • chris-in-nm

    Well, if a man is willing to use you for his pleasure (that you willing consent to), what makes you think there would not be one willing to make a commitment for life to you? You can “commit” to a moment’s worth of pleasure, but not marriage? You’re saying that sex before marriage (selfishness) is better than an honorable, lifetime commitment. But if you can accept using someone and being used just for sex, then why complain about the consequences? If you really engage in this type of behavior, then men will see the example being set forth, so I suspect you’re not really wanting marriage and commitment anyway.


    People born intersexed (and perverted Catholic priests) are not the norm, even if you believe it is. What’s under discussion here is the rule to include everybody, not the exception.


    “Condom use” has been preached for years; the only thing we’ve seen happen is disease (and unhappiness and discontentment) rates go up, not down. As stated before, contraceptive use is not the issue; immoral, selfish behavior is. It’s all about what makes ME feel good, regardless of what anyone else thinks. You put down the Vatican priest as an abuser, but putting the desire for sex before rational and considerate thought for others is, in fact, self-abuse. This, in princple, justifies the Vatican you complain about. After all, he’s just doing what makes HIM feel good, regardless of what anyone else thinks.


    This type of self-centered thinking is unhealthy and conterproductive to a society that wants to continue to function properly.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    I suspect that you are very brainwashed and very UNambitious.  I would never settle for such a lonely, pitied life.  I also suspect you had more options that you ignored or your mother kept from you.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Wow! — you sure are a black and white only, Jansenist heretic idiot who refuses to believe sex based on mutual personality and physical attraction has any genuine altruism.  Consensual sex almost always is based on hopeful altruism that often leads to a committed future.  Most women never have pre-marital sex for “selfish” fun only!  I know a zillion non-virgins who married their significant others, so your claim is insultingly ludicrous!  I do know of unattractive or disabled virgins who never got marriage proposals because virginity alone doesn’t turn on men.  My virgin Catholic neighbor married a closet gay who refused to consummate their marriage.  How was her virginity and loveless sham wedding a rocking success??   My own childbirth-ruined mom burned my skin off when I was in first grade as her abstinence excuse, and I always observed the gorgeous non-virgins getting all the marriage proposals, so don’t push your virginity crap on me!  It’s women’s looks, stupid!

    ALL people are intersexed to some degree (pre-natal chimerism and microchimerism), and 90% of priests break their chastity vows with other adults of varying genders.

    Condoms only work if they are used, and your beloved pedophile clergy have burned many condom shipments to Africa.

    Why don’t you google obstetric fistulas to get a clue why GOP anti-choice bullies cheat on and divorce their brood mares and why your home schooling really sucks in the truthiness department?

  • give-em-hell-mary

    My computer burped!

  • ljean8080

    but DO NOT say anything about my mother,i grew up in the 50s which was a different time.Even now unemployment for the disabled is AT  do not know which areas my CP affects.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    I am very familiar with your time period and the high unemployment for the disabled (I ran into it too!), and you haven’t mentioned the particulars of your CP, but I have done lots of research on the RCC’s crippling policies which uninformed people often overlook and our conservative media won’t report.

  • chris-in-nm

    Your response does not answer why we need not be teaching the children to abstain from sex outside of marriage and promoting marriages that last a lifetime.


    While I feel sorry for your unfortunate childhood experiences, they do not change reality. You say, “I know a zillion non-virgins who married their significant others, so your claim is insultingly ludicrous!” Okay, I know that millions of high school students have contracted disease from random “hook-ups” and that some of these same students sleep with their teachers. So, since contracting disease and student-teacher intercourse happens, that makes your all your claims “insultingly ludicrous!” So, “don’t push your” arrogant, self-deluded “crap on me!” What’s good for thee is good for me, is it not?


    Condoms can work, if a “pedophile” priest uses them on an AIDS infected boy. Why shouldn’t he do it, since it feels good to him? Are you “anti-choice” concerning this activity? If so, why?

  • colleen

    you do not determine the topics.

  • chris-in-nm

    I acknowledge this is not my blog; however, in the comment section, the respondant typically gets to determine the topic in response to the main topic, as long as it’s not unreasonable. I do not “determine”, or have authority over, the responses that may or may not address the topic in the comment section that the respondant has provided. Neither do you…unless you are a moderator. Whether you choose to answer the topic I have chosen is up to you.


    At any rate, this does not answer why it is wrong to teach the children to abstain from sex outside of marriage and promote marriages that last a lifetime.

  • forced-birth-rape

    Because some people do not want to get married, they do not have to for your christian pleasure. Get over your self.

  • chris-in-nm

    What if I were to say, “Because some priests do not want to keep themselves from molesting little boys, they do not have to for your feministic pleasure. Get over your self”. That just tells me what some priests do. It doesn’t tell me why it ought not be done.

  • forced-birth-rape

    I know child raping christian men will never accept this, but women consenting to sex out side of marriage is not the equivalent of men raping children. You are judging and trying to dictate other people by way of your pro little girl rape book (the bible).



    31: 17 “Now therefore, KILL every male among the little ones, and Kill every woman who is not a virgin.


    31:18 “But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.” 


    Christian bible god telling soldiers to rape twelve and thirteen year old virgin girls.



    “The Catholic Church is working against the interests of child abuse victims in state legislatures around the country. In recent weeks, lobbying by the church has blocked measures in Wisconsin, Arizona and Connecticut intended to widen the legal window for victims to file lawsuits against hidden predators.”



    “TIME ranks Southern Baptists’ rejection of sex-offender database as a top “underreported” news story of 2008″

  • chris-in-nm

    The problem with this interpretation is, the text says nothing about raping young girls. Instead, the command that the children of Israel would have to abide in is found in Deut. 21:10-13; that is, they were to marry the captives and love their wives (Ex. 21:5; Lev. 19:18; Deut. 24:5).

    The command for execution of the enemy being enforced is found in Deut. 21:12-18, and the reason for this is because of the evil influence God knew the heathen nations would have on them (Num. 33:50-56).

    That some in the Catholic and Baptist church are not being the examples they should be does not prove the Bible is false. Nowhere in the Bible does God condone rape or murder. So your point has not been proven.

  • crowepps

    Honorable lifetime commitment?  What’s ‘honorable’ about being some man’s brood sow?

    The ‘lifetime commitment’ will likely be pretty short if the woman has no choice but to endure repeated pregnancies until the last one kills her.

  • thalwen

    Oh, lucky, lucky girls. They were forced into marriage, and of course you can’t be raped in marriage even one you didn’t consent to. Then again, you don’t strike me as the kind of guy that sees consent as an issue. I mean women don’t have their own sex drives, they’re just “consenting to be used by men for sex.” And these lucky captives also got to see their “evil influence” family and friends slaughtered, yippee! What a blessing! Oh and their non-virginal mothers, sisters, friends, also slaughtered for being “used goods.” Really, these girls got the deal of a lifetime. 


    Execution of the enemy? Buddy, that’s murder. Slaughtering everyone who isn’t a virgin? Also murder. Forcing girls into marriage where they’ll have no choice but to have sex with their captor? That’s rape. You just proved her point with your own words. (I understand though, that you see those things are perfectly legitimate, which doesn’t mean it isn’t rape and murder, it means you’re sick and need professional help)

  • jek216

    I’d like to comment on the content of the article, “Alarmist Approaches to Teen Pregnancy Trumping Efforts to Help Teen Parents Succeed.” Thank you, Miriam, for your important post on this often overlooked subject.


    I, too, am concerned at how research on the so-called “consequences” of teen childbearing (although people tend to use teen pregnancy interchangeably) is over-simplified and miscited—by people on both sides of the debate. As you point out, many studies and reports about them conflate correlation with causality. They claim that teen childbearing causes a host of negative outcomes related to education and economic well-being. But there is no evidence that such relationships are causal. As you point out, many of the teens who become teen parents are already disadvantaged before they became pregnant, in a number of ways. This new study on literacy is but one example, but raises important questions about the directions of causality.


    Thank you for raising this point, which is not only overlooked, but downright ignored by well meaning researchers and advocates alike.


    I will say, however, that I do not think supporting teen parents—and all parents—means that we should no longer fund and continue teen pregnancy prevention efforts. Though there are limited financial resources, as well as political will, it is does not have to be an “either/or.” This truly can be a “both/and.” But that doesn’t mean we should be alarmist and blatantly inaccurate in our citation of “facts.” So thank you again for your great piece.

  • colleen

    As their Presidential candidates and pundits like Randall Terry and Rush Limbaugh demonstrate, when they speak of lifetime commitment’ they actually mean 5-10 years if the guy can afford a divorce. As David Vitter and so many others demonstrate, ‘commitment’ has a lot of wiggle room too. And naturally, being what they are, social conservatives blame all glitches and divorces, sex slaves  and rapes and unwanted pregnancies solely on women.

  • beenthere72

    Do you not understand the difference between 2 consenting adults and one adult molesting a child?  

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Chris AKA Blissed:
    “Your response does not answer why we need not be teaching the children to abstain from sex outside of marriage and promoting marriages that last a lifetime.”
    I did answer! — many adults have ZERO opportunity to marry and 50% of religious marriages end in divorce or with mistresses on the side!

    “While I feel sorry for your unfortunate childhood experiences”
    No you don’t!

    “they do not change reality.”
    Traumas like religious abuse change ALL realities!

    “high school students have contracted disease from random ‘hook-ups'”
    Cheating Catholic husbands pass on zillions of STDs to their faithful wives.

    “students sleep with their teachers”
    Arrest the teachers!

    “What’s good for thee is good for me”
    Troll, YOU support GOP/RCC elitist adultery and pedophilia, not me!

    “Condoms can work, if a ‘pedophile’ priest uses them on an AIDS infected boy.”
    Such priests should be arrested, but you support husbands with AIDS from cheating or blood transfusions infecting their wives, because you believe faithful wives should always risk their own lives every time they have sex with their husbands. You hate it when condoms save such women’s lives!

    “Are you ‘anti-choice’ concerning this activity?”
    Troll, you are pro-dead mothers and pro-AIDS pandemic!

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Disabled, unattractive and gorgeous LGBT folks often have ZERO choices about marrying.  Most marriages don’t last and involve adultery.  What planet are you living on? — certainly not earth!

  • purplemistydez

    Are you kidding me?  Teen marriage is a horrible idea.  The divorce rate is at 50%.  Teens are not emotionally or mentally ready for a child or marriage.  Teens have no idea who they are or what they want to in their future to marry someone just as inexperienced as they are.  Absistence is not realistic at all.  It only delays sexual activity a few months longer and does not prepare them on contraceptive use to prevent STDs and pregnancies.  Teens need to be taught in school healthy realtionships, how their body works and accurate birth control use.  You want this make believe world that is not possible.  People are sexual creatures and need real information on how to protect themselves.  It’s a stupid idea for teens to marry just so they can have sex.  Plus you seem to forget that LGBT need sexual information too.

  • purplemistydez

    You do realize most people do not wait until marriage to have sex nor does eveyone want to marry or can marry legally.  Teen marriage is a terrible idea.  Getting married just to have sex is the quick route to getting a divorce.  Givinng teens and adults accurate sexual education reduces STDs and pregnancies.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Nowhere in the Bible does God or Christ condemn mother-saving mid-wife/abortionists and abortifacient holy wine and wild carrot seeds harvested to extinction by Christ’s followers.  Nowhere does Christ order the Apostles to dump their wives (especially if they had stinky obstetric bladder and bowel incontinence!) and secretly rape little kids instead!

  • purplemistydez

    Exactly PC.  He seems to forget also that married people get STDs and want to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Teens getting married just so they have sex is a horrible idea.  It’s definately a great way to increase the divorce rate.

  • partner

    Sin has it’s consequences. The sins of the conquered nation caused them to be overthrown.


    I do see consent as an issue. Consent is another word for agreement. But just because a person or persons agree to do something doesn’t make the action right in and of itself.


    Execution and slaughter is not necesarily murder, because civil government has authority to punish crimes it deems worthy of death, within correct parameters. I don’t like that innocent people die; nevertheless, the sins of a nation may lead to that consequence (e.g. — Nazi Germany; WWII Japan).


    Redefining words to suit a political objective is commonplace nowadays. I just don’t buy into the social reengeneering like you have. I see it for what it is, and I utterly reject it.


    If you truly believe I’m “sick and need professional help”, by all means, believe what you wish. However, what a person believes doesn’t necessarily make it a fact.

  • thalwen

    Clearly you have no grasp of military warfare, history or law. Nor do you understand consent or you wouldn’t be equating forced marriage, child molestation and sex outside marriage. Sin doesn’t overthrow countries, militaries do that and it has nothing to do with sin. Germany lost WWII because most countries don’t take kindly to being occupied and bombed. Women also don’t take kindly to being forced into marriage.

    “However, what a person believes doesn’t necessarily make it a fact.”

    That pretty much sums up every sick and stupid thing you’ve said on this thread. 

  • colleen

    Sin has it’s consequences. The sins of the conquered nation caused them to be overthrown.

    There it is again. Blaming God for the disgusting things men do to and with women and children. That appears to be a defining characteristic of the  religious right, well that and the endless lies and the hatred of women. What men like you do for an illusion of authority is disgusting. You (and that includes your biblical interpretations)  have no authority at all here, least of all spiritual authority. I’ve never been able to say which I find more offense. The religious right’s assumption of ownership over the bodies of all women or their assumption of a spiritual authority they are so clearly not entitled to.

    Redefining words to suit a political objective is commonplace nowadays.

    Ya, words like ‘rape’ and ‘self defense’ and ‘consent’ and ‘terrorism’ and phrases like ‘freedom of religion’. And then of course there’s the whole parsing of the word ‘pedophile’ because. as it turns out, religious fundamentalism is the 2nd greatest predictor for childhood sexual abuse and incest.

    I just don’t buy into the social reengeneering like you have. I see it for what it is, and I utterly reject it.

    Hey I understand. If you can’t prey on vulnerable teenaged girls, how else would guys like you reproduce. You gotta get them young to beat all of the self esteem and joy and creativity and curiosity out of them.



  • give-em-hell-mary

    “Redefining words to suit a political objective is commonplace nowadays. I just don’t buy into the social reengeneering like you have. I see it for what it is, and I utterly reject it.”

    But you do support regressing back to the failed genocidal social engineering of the RCC with its centuries of slaughtering millions of heretics (Jews, Cathars, Lutherans, Tutsis, Buddhists, indigenous people), witches (mid-wives!), traitors (safety-net socialists) and baby-killers (contraception users and miscarriage patients!)!

    You definitely are sick!

  • beenthere72

    And how do you promote lifetime marriage anyways besides promoting the idea that ‘if he beats you, remember why you fell in love in the first place’ type philosophies?  

  • give-em-hell-mary

    And how do pompous “lifetimers” force looksists playboy wife-dumpers like Deal Hudson, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and Randall Terry to return to their first wives?  Or are these American mullahs hoping unwanted first wives will conveniently die in childbirth?

  • crowepps

    It’s certainly easier to restrict people to “lifetime marriage” if annual pregnancies with inadequate medical care kill the women off early.

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