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WaPo Ignores Parents Role In Preventing Teen Pregnancy

The January 26th Washington Post carried a Rob Stein story on a new Guttmacher Institute study that found, between 2005 and 2006, the pregnancy rate among teenage girls rose for the first time in more than a decade. At two points in the story, Stein mentions some possible causes for the rise:

The cause of the increase is the subject of debate. Several experts blamed the increase in teen pregnancies on sex-education programs that focus on encouraging abstinence. Others said the reversal could be due to a variety of factors, including an increase in poverty, an influx of Hispanics and complacency about AIDS, prompting lax use of birth control such as condoms.

“Research unmistakably indicates that delaying sexual initiation rates and reducing the total number of lifetime partners is more valuable in protecting the sexual health of young people than simply passing out condoms,” said Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association, who blamed the increase on several factors.

“Contributors include an over-sexualized culture, lack of involved and positive role models, and the dominant message that teen sex is expected and without consequences,” Huber said.

Huber is right: preventing teen sex is the key to preventing teen pregnancy. As Heritage Foundation fellow Robert Rector has shown, girls who become sexually active during early adolescence are three times as likely to become single mothers as those who remain abstinent throughout their teenage years. Nearly 40 percent of girls who begin sexual activity at ages 13 or 14 will give birth outside marriage, compared to 9 percent of those who remain abstinent until their early twenties.

And what is the key to preventing teen sex? Parents. Reviewing the literature Christine Kim explains:

Social science research over the decades suggests that parents can play a protective role in delaying early teen sexual activity and reducing the risk of harmful consequences. Importantly, the empirical evidence indicates that childhood family structure, teens’ perceptions of parental disapproval of teen sex, and the quality of the parent-child relationship appear to affect teen sexual behavior.