The LA Times published a sound, well-written and very thought-provoking opinion piece by Mike Males (of YouthFacts) on July 13th. In his letter, which is well worth reading for yourself, he makes several key points regarding myths that are commonly perpetuated by the media on the topic of “teen pregnancy.” To sum them up:
1) Remember that pregnancy pact thing in Gloucester, Mass.? It didn’t happen. That’s right, it wasn’t true at all. While the pregnancy rate when up a little from the year before, it wasn’t abnormally high overall. There was also no pact, no celebrations, no coordinated pregnancies. The principal who started the story refused to name sources and it fell flat under investigations. Hmm. My thoughts: even if a few kids high-fived each other, what would you expect them to do? “Gosh, Jane. You’re stupid.” No. Friends support each other, of course. And, it isn’t rare at all for some high schoolers to want babies, after all.
2) The very term “teen pregnancy” relies on sexist, old-fashioned ideas of careless teen boys hooking up with their young girlfriends. Oftentimes it is late teens with older men who are no longer teens at all. Should we not focus on these men, poverty, or other related issues? Why is it all about these young women?
3) And who says that these pregnancies are always bad? After all, some research (cited in the original article) clearly has found that women living in poverty did better if they became parents in their teens than if they waited. Their long-term incomes, tax payments, and so on were all improved. There is also a higher likelihood of intergenerational support from parents, it turns out.
4) Males wraps it up with a call for major sex ed and abstinence ed groups to stop ignoring large portions of the research that don’t meet their needs. He also calls to the public to be more careful about the pregnancy rumors they consume and repeat.
Good work, Mike Males. You’ve caught my attention and given me quite a bit to chew on.
Mike Male’s original opinion piece – here
Mike Male’s home page – here
Summary from National Partnership for Women & Families – here
YouthFacts.org, working to confront cultural myths about our kids – here