Are teen pregnancy prevention messages harming young parents?

In my latest article for Colorlines I examine what impact teen pregnancy prevent messages may be having on teens who end up parenting.

An excerpt

Teen pregnancy prevention initiatives are often based on the premise that teen parenting is an indisputably bad thing and should be avoided at all costs. And as a consequence, teen moms are constantly presented as failures and victims. “I love my life. I’m not gonna mess it up with a pregnancy,” says a teenager at the end of a video on the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy’s website,

Prevention advocates point to the fact that teen parents have higher incidence of the range of problems public health works so hard to end. In a document targeting parents of teens, the National Campaign explains:

“Compared to women who delay childbearing, teen mothers are less likely to complete high school and more likely to end up on welfare. The children of teen mothers are at significantly increased risk of low birth-weight and prematurity, mental retardation, poverty, growing up without a father, welfare dependency, poor school performance, insufficient health care, inadequate parenting, and abuse and neglect.”

It’s a compelling formula—simply stop teen girls from having kids, and these disparities disappear. But the question that remains is what’s really behind these negative outcomes? Is young pregnancy and parenting the cause, or it a correlation with other risk factors, like socio-economic status and race, that recur at all ages?

I think it’s an important question because the Obama Administration has invested millions of dollars in these programs, while young parents are often not getting the support and services they need.

Read the whole thing here.


One thought on “Are teen pregnancy prevention messages harming young parents?

  1. Juliana Schwartz May 24, 2011 / 1:45 am

    I just read this article, and loved it! I didn’t realize that you had written it :). I absolutely agree, this is an idea that I have been grappling with for a while. I’m currently working on a research paper around teen pregnancy rates and how they are affected by access to abortion and sex ed, and though I think that sex ed and abortion could really reduce teen pregnancy rates, its also important to acknowledge that teen pregnancy isn’t always an accident. Sometimes it is, and that too has to do with socio economic status, and access to reliable contraception, etc. but sometimes girls feel as if they have no other opportunities that are as compelling as motherhood. And that is socioeconomics too.

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