The Centers for Disease Control recently released a study about teenage sexuality. The findings from this study were pretty similar to responses given six years ago, with two notable exceptions among teenage girls: more said they used the “rhythm method” as birth control, and more said they were comfortable with children being born to unmarried mothers. The article can be found here.
The statistics on girls using the rhythm method are worrisome because this is such an imprecise and complicated form of birth control; according to study author Joyce Abma, it has a 25% failure rate. Serious adherents to the rhythm method must use a mathematical formula for when to avoid sex, since the difference in menstrual cycles among women creates variations in fertile and infertile periods. I can understand that girls may think this is a free form of birth control, but the hassle and uncertainty of the rhythm method make it highly unreliable. This is especially true for teenage girls whose maturity levels and sense of responsibility aren’t fully developed. For more information on the rhythm method, visit Gynae Online.
The fact that more teenage girls are accepting of pregnancy outside of marriage is also troubling because it may imply that these girls don’t see the risks of teenage pregnancy. It is now more common for adults to have children outside of marriage, but there is a vast difference between stable adults parenting--whether in in a committed relationship or not--and teenagers, lacking in education and maturity, trying to provide for a child. Teenage girls often overestimate their ability to care for children, so this increasing acceptance of unmarried mothers could mean that more and more teenage girls don’t understand the realities of motherhood.
The study notes that teenage pregnancy has become more visible in pop culture because of a few high-profile young mothers. Bristol Palin, a daughter of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, became a mother at 18, and Jamie Lynn Spears, the sister of Britney Spears, had a child at 17. As children born into famous and wealthy families, these two girls were sheltered from the harsh economic realities most teenage mothers face, and the media tended to focus only on the positive side of these pregnancies. Similarly, the movie Juno presented an unrealistic portrait of teenage pregnancy, according to Gloria Feldt, as discussed here.
The findings from this study should stir people to realize that we need to present a more realistic picture of teenage pregnancies, and that we need to better educate girls about their sexuality.
Girl Museum Inc.