By Rachel Schindler
MTV’s hit series, Teen Mom, may be the “Scared Straight” version of teen pregnancy prevention. While the stars are splashed on magazine and tabloid covers appearing at nearly every grocery store check-out, a national teen pregnancy prevention leader disputes accusations that depicting the reality of young mothers glamorizes teen pregnancy.
“To say that these shows on teen pregnancy glamorize — it’s just the same as saying ‘The Biggest Loser’ glamorizes obesity. That’s just nonsense,” said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Teen Mom is a spin off of last year’s show 16 and Pregnant. This season we follow the teen moms through the challenges of obtaining their GEDs, going to college, wedding plans, child support hearings and even watching one couple grieve over their decision to place their daughter up for adoption.
The show has fast become MTV’s second highest rated reality show, falling just behind the Jersey Shore.
With three out of ten girls in America getting pregnant at least once before the age of 20, MTV’s efforts to portray the realities that face teen mothers may cause many youngsters to more fully consider the impact of their actions.
The facts are alarming:
- Less than half of teen mothers ever graduate from high school and fewer than two percent earn a college degree by age 30.
- More than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager.
- The sons of teen mothers are twice as likely to end up in prison.
- The daughters of teenage mothers are three times more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
A PAIRS Foundation study found that helping teens improve communication skills, emotional understanding, and conflict resolution reduced the likelihood of behaviors that lead to teen pregnancy. In follow-up with 137 Miami high school girls participating in the ten-hour PAIRS for PEERS class, 86 percent reported an approved ability to say no to unwanted sexual advances; 77 percent said they would be more likely to consider consequences of sexual activities.
“PAIRS promotes parent-child communication and invests in the future by offering programs that have been proven to reduce teen pregnancy,” said Dr. Shirley Johnson a veteran educator and Regional Supervisor of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
According to a recent poll by StayTeen.org (another supporter of Teen Mom) close to 50% of teens have never considered how a pregnancy would affect their lives. The girls of Teen Mom – Maci Bookout, Farrah Abraham, Amber Portwood and Catelynn Lowell – will argue that their show serves as a wake-up call to those who have never considered the lasting repercussions of their actions.
Rachel Schindler, a member of PAIRS Foundation’s research and grant support team, earned her BA in Psychology and Sociology. She is workin