Policies Politics in USA
Poverty, not sex ed, key factor in teen pregnancy
Jonathan Zimmerman
Thursday, September 4, 2008

One side thinks adolescents should receive more "comprehensive" information about sex, including contraception. The others side favors a more didactic approach, with a simpler message: "abstinence only."

Sound familiar?

Brace yourself for yet another round in America's perennial teen-pregnancy wars. On Monday, GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin confirmed that her 17-year-old daughter Bristol is five months pregnant. Faster than you could say "condoms," liberals and conservatives lined up in predictable battle formations. To the liberal camp, of course, the news about Bristol Palin simply confirmed the need for comprehensive sex education in the schools. On the right, meanwhile, Palin's pregnancy spurred new calls for abstinence-only instruction.

They're both wrong.

Let's start with conservatives, and their stubborn demand for abstinence-only education. Last year, an exhaustive five-year study confirmed that kids receiving this instruction are no more likely to delay sexual intercourse than their peers.

But the abstinence-only sex education program still draws $175 million in federal money and untold sums from states and localities. As governor of Alaska, indeed, Sarah Palin supported abstinence-only education and denounced "explicit sex-ed programs" in the schools.

Yet we still don't have any evidence that these explicit programs work, either. As University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg confirmed last year, in an exhaustive review of the literature, efforts to prove the effectiveness of comprehensive sex education are "generally unimpressive, to say the least."

We know that these programs can enhance students' knowledge about risky sex behaviors and change their attitudes toward these same behaviors. But can sex education actually influence what kids do? As best we can tell, it can't.

There's only one point on which both sides seem to agree: Teen pregnancy is a big problem. They differ on their solutions, of course, but everyone seems to believe that pregnancy hurts the life chances of teenage moms and their children.

Again, the data suggest otherwise. As Furstenberg has shown, bearing a child as a teenager doesn't hurt a woman's prospects for education, job advancement or marriage. Ditto for her kids, who don't suffer any measurable consequences from having a teenage mother.

Instead, they suffer for a much more basic reason: They're poor. About two-thirds of teenage mothers live at or below the poverty line at the time they give birth. The less income and opportunity that you have, the more likely you are to become a teenage parent.

So Americans have it exactly backward. Teen pregnancy doesn't deprive our kids of life chances; instead, kids who lack those chances are the ones who get pregnant. Why? Nobody knows for sure. But it seems that young women who have a sense of power and confidence in their lives are more likely to use contraception. Impoverished girls often lack that confidence, so they don't take measures to protect themselves. They are also less likely to have abortions, which are often too expensive or heavily tabooed in poor communities.

And so the war rages, largely untethered by facts. For in the end, this struggle isn't really about facts at all. It's about rival views of sex itself. Left-leaning Americans view sex as a normal part of human development, so they want to give adolescents the information that will help them make responsible decisions about it. But social conservatives think sex should be reserved for one population alone: married people. Everyone else should abstain, especially if they're teenagers.

That helps explain why Sarah Palin - in revealing Bristol's pregnancy - also announced that her daughter will marry Levi Johnston, the 18-year-old father of Bristol's unborn baby. To drive the point home, Johnston has joined the Palins at the GOP convention. It's a family affair, and now he's a part of it.

The decision won immediate acclaim from conservatives, who regard unwedded childbearing as the greatest plague on the land. And there's a significant body of research showing that children raised by two parents do better than those in single-parent homes.

But we also know that so-called "shotgun" marriages - that is, unions forged in response to a pregnancy - are heavily prone to divorce. That's one reason why divorce rates are so much higher in so-called red states, where young people are more likely to marry after conceiving a child.

All things being equal, of course, it's still best for our teenagers - and for their offspring - to delay parenthood. But all things are not equal, and that's the whole point here. The hype over teen pregnancy diverts us from the truly serious problem in American society, which is the growing poverty of teenagers themselves. Last year, for example, UNICEF ranked the United States second to last among 21 developed Western nations in child health, safety and material well-being. Changing the teen pregnancy rate won't change any of that.

So don't feel sorry for Bristol Palin or her unborn child, who will probably turn out OK. So did Ann Dunham, who bore a son when she was just 18. You've probably heard of him: Barack Obama. He seems to have done pretty well, too.

Instead, think about the teen parents who lack the social and material advantages that you do. Remember that in most cases they're parents because they're poor, and not the other way around. The more we fight about teen pregnancy, the less we'll focus upon teen poverty. And that's bad news for all of us.

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of "Innocents Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century" (Harvard University Press).


This article appeared on page B - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle

© 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.



The real mistake in 'teen pregnancy'

story, stigma and realities

By Mike Males

July 13, 2008

Given America's increasing obsession with teenage pregnancy over the last three decades, it's inevitable that sensational stories such as Gloucester High School's mythical pregnancy pact would generate a media frenzy.

Ignited by Time magazine's June 18 feature, the story exploded in the national and international media, growing wilder and wilder: Girls 16 and younger who lived in upscale Gloucester, Mass., conspired to get pregnant. When their pregnancy tests proved positive, they reportedly "high-fived" each other in celebration and fantasized about raising their babies together. A huge "spike" in the number of pregnancies at the high school, from an average of four in previous years to 17 this year, testified to a national epidemic.

None of the lurid claims in the article turned out to be true, however. Subsequent investigation revealed no pregnancy pact, no mass celebrations, no communal schemes, no pop-culture incitement. Joseph Sullivan, the principal of Gloucester High School and the original source of the story, wouldn't name his sources. The three pregnant girls located in Gloucester turned out to be 17 years old. As for the proclaimed jump in pregnancies at the high school,Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports showed that school officials had apparently overlooked the fact that births among students had been higher in previous years.

The fictional Gloucester teen pact did provide reporters, officials and "experts" with another opportunity to lambaste teenagers who get pregnant and the reasons they do: pop culture, moral laxity and/or lack of sex education. Unfortunately, such commentators ignored a far more important truth revealed by the myth: The three-decade national teen-pregnancy furor is mired in unreality. Selected "facts" and fables are repeated, often wildly exaggerated and sometimes made up to suit the immediate needs of this or that teen-pregnancy prevention group.

In truth, social- and health-policy discussions in this country would profit from abandoning the stigmatizing, prejudicial concept of "teenage pregnancy" altogether. Dumping the notion would help end the quarreling among pregnancy prevention groups and eliminate many of the fact-challenged assertions they cite to make their case.

The term is counterproductive for two reasons. First, it perpetuates pre-1950s sexist misnomers.A large majority of male partners involved in teenage pregnancy are not the high school boys frequently blamed, but men age 20 and older, according to birth tabulations by the California Center for Health Statistics and national surveys.So, instead of criticizing the "high rate of teenage pregnancy" in the U.S., shouldn't we be condemning the "high rate of adults impregnating teens"? In addition, in an era of gender equality -- in which men are expected to share in sexual responsibility and child-raising -- why is a 19-year-old woman knocked up by a 22-year-old man stigmatized as part of the "social problem of teenage pregnancy," but a 22-year-old woman impregnated by a 19-year-old man isn't? Isn't the real problem, regardless of the mothers' ages, fathers who fail to support their kids?

Teenage motherhood may actually make economic sense for poorer young women, some research suggests. For instance, long-term studies by Duke economist V. Joseph Hotz and colleagues, published in 2005, found that by age 35, former teen moms had earned more in income, paid more in taxes, were substantially less likely to live in poverty and collected less in public assistance than similarly poor women who waited until their 20s to have babies. Women who became mothers in their teens -- freed from child-raising duties by their late 20s and early 30s to pursue employment while poorer women who waited to become moms were still stuck at home watching their young children -- wound up paying more in taxes than they had collected in welfare.

Eight years earlier, the federally commissioned report "Kids Having Kids" also contained a similar finding, though it was buried: "Adolescent childbearers fare slightly better than later-childbearing counterparts in terms of their overall economic welfare."

Unfortunately, such findings have been ignored by all sides in the debate. That teenage motherhood may represent a rational long-term economic choice for poorer women wasn't what activist groups that invoke the "social costs" of teen pregnancy wanted to hear.

Dwelling on the social costs of teen pregnancy also leads to erroneous claims of success. Abstinence-education promoters such as the Family Research Council and sex-education boosters such as Planned Parenthood have rushed to take credit for the 25% decline in births and pregnancies by teens since 1990. But tabulations by the National Center for Health Statistics show that from 1990 to 2006, births by unwed teens -- those whom the programs and policies most strenuously sought to deter -- actually increased by 3%, as did births by unwed adults. The decline in births by teen mothers since 1990 consisted of 100,000 fewer births by married teens and their generally adult-aged husbands -- hardly the group teen-pregnancy prevention organizations had targeted.

If Planned Parenthood, the Family Research Council and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy really want to reduce unwanted teen pregnancies, they should study such factors as poverty, the older ages of male partners, the advantages having children afford poorer young women and the plunge in births among married teens and adults, among other realities. That would be easier if the stigmatizing concept of "teenage pregnancy" was not part of our health-policy deliberations.

Mike Males formerly taught sociology at UC Santa Cruz and now researches for the online information service,0,2447972.story

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times







When most people are asked why teenage women become pregnant, they respond with something on the lines of, "They become pregnant because they could not control the urge of temptation before getting married." That is not entirely true for most teenage women. In fact the reason most teenage girls become pregnant is because they do not get enough love and attention. They do not have a parent willing or able to talk to them about their lives and to direct them in the right direction. Single parent families are usually in poverty. Teenage women who have only one parent in the house are sometimes neglected all the time because that one parent is out working and trying to support the family. According to Evelyn Lerman in Teen Moms: The Pain and the Promise, the eighty percent of teenage women who become pregnant are in poverty before they become pregnant.

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As a result of their neglect, teenage women might crave love. So, they seek out someone to love, and that someone would be a boy or man to have a loving relationship. The woman intends to spend her life with the guy. They become closer emotionally and physically. The woman feels compelled to invest her body to maintain the relationship and that is where the problems of becoming pregnant begin.

Some teenage women in a loveless household might not feel the need to be loved by a boyfriend. However, without a parent to direct the teenager and set limits, a teenager might be unable to distinguish right from wrong. That is where peer pressure takes hold. Teenagers who are part of the "wrong" crowd of people who smoke, drink alcohol, take drugs, and have sex might be pressured by their peers to follow their routines. Lerman estimates that twenty-five percent of teenagers feel pressured to have sex. The best way to fight peer pressure is to have a strong relationship with a parent, and without a parent to talk to that might be extremely hard if not impossible to fight.

Another form of pressure to have sex comes from television, movies, and other media. Teenagers see these characters in movies and television sleeping around and not getting pregnant; or they hear about the promiscuous lives of singers, actors, models, writers, or sports players, but do not hear about the often-tragic outcome of their sex lives. So, they are given the message that it is not dangerous to have sex with one person, or even more. Teenage girls might also receive the message that it is ok to have sex from another source: their moms. Single mothers who had a child when they were teens, and are now managing their lives might be giving a message to their daughters without even knowing it. Their teen daughters can see that they made it though life even though they had sex so young, and that they [teenage girls] can do it too. Sixty percent of all teens are raised by a single parent (Lerman).

Teenage girls who do not have a father figure in their lives are more likely to favor having a relationship with an older man to compensate. In fact, in a majority of relationships with teenage girls dating older men, the younger the girl the older the man. A big reason for this is that a teenager feels so hip and cool showing off her older boyfriend to all her friends and colleagues. Teenage women may feel a sense of psychological security with an older, fatherly man in their lives. Money can be a reason for dating an older man. Women who are in poverty and want a better and more comfortable lifestyle would gravitate to a man who has big assets. Of course some teenage girls do not care about popularity, security, or money. They just love the person that they are with. They fall in love with their intelligence, background, or kindness. Then the girl begins to have sex with the older man, and becomes pregnant. When this happens, a girl's life can be ruined even more severely compared to getting pregnant with someone around her age. The teenager could be mocked and called such violent words as a "whore" or "tramp". She could lose her reputation, family, and friends. Worst of all she could lose her boyfriend if he were to be sentenced to jail for having sex with a minor or in some cases being forced to choose between her and his wife. All of these outcomes can diminish a teenage girl's self image and well being. Most relationships with older men do not work out because the two people involved eventually realize that they have little or nothing in common.

The Psychological Effects of Teenage Women During Pregnancy
by Sean Powers (September 22, 2002)


Comments on
Are Same-Sex Couples Better Parents?
by Dr. Ashok Koparday

Same sex couples are as stable, as good or as bad as heterosexual couples. Thus, same sex couples do not make better parents.
When kids are adopted by same sex couples there is likely to be more confusion in growing children about gender dynamics. Kids would be more exasperated with the question, "Who are my real parents?", and children will tend to feel they are 'aliens' in the human community around them.
These are conjectures.
There is no research material that is statistically significant and placebo controlled to vouch for the conjecture.
It however, gets general people, policy and law makers, thinking from an additional dimension of human rights, the rights of 'children' in cases of same sex marriages.

Are Same-Sex Couples Better Parents?
Lisa Belkin of the New York Times reviews some of the recent research:

This growth, coupled with the passage of time, means there is a large cohort of children who are now old enough to yield solid data. And the portrait emerging tells us something about the effects of gay parenting. It also contains lessons for all parents. “These children do just fine,” says Abbie E. Goldberg, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Clark University, who concedes there are some who will continue to believe that gay parents are a danger to their children, in spite of a growing web of psychological and sociological evidence to the contrary. Her new book, “Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children,” is an analysis of more than 100 academic studies, most looking at groups of 30 to 150 subjects, and primarily on lesbian mothers, though of late there is a spike in research about gay fathers.

In most ways, the accumulated research shows, children of same-sex parents are not markedly different from those of heterosexual parents. They show no increased incidence of psychiatric disorders, are just as popular at school and have just as many friends. While girls raised by lesbian mothers seem slightly more likely to have more sexual partners, and boys slightly more likely to have fewer, than those raised by heterosexual mothers, neither sex is more likely to suffer from gender confusion nor to identify themselves as gay.

More enlightening than the similarities, however, are the differences, the most striking of which is that these children tend to be less conventional and more flexible when it comes to gender roles and assumptions than those raised in more traditional families. There are data that show, for instance, that daughters of lesbian mothers are more likely to aspire to professions that are traditionally considered male, like doctors or lawyers — 52 percent in one study said that was their goal, compared with 21 percent of daughters of heterosexual mothers, who are still more likely to say they want to be nurses or teachers when they grow up. (The same study found that 95 percent of boys from both types of families choose the more masculine jobs.) Girls raised by lesbians are also more likely to engage in “roughhousing” and to play with “male-gendered-type toys” than girls raised by straight mothers. And adult children of gay parents appear more likely than the average adult to work in the fields of social justice and to have more gay friends in their social mix.

On the difference in gender based expectations:

Same-sex couples, it seems, are less likely to impose certain gender-based expectations on their children, says M. V. Lee Badgett, director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of “When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage.” Studies of lesbian parents have found that they “are more feminist parents,” she says, “more open to girls playing with trucks and boys playing with dolls,” with fewer worries about conforming to perceived norms.

They are also, by definition, less likely to impose gender-based expectations on themselves. “Same-sex parents tend to be more equal in parenting,” Goldberg says, while noting that no generalization can apply to all parents of any sexual orientation. On the whole, though, lesbian mothers (there’s little data here on gay dads) tend not to divide chores and responsibilities according to gender-based roles, Goldberg says, “because you have taken gender out the equation. There’s much more fluidity than in many heterosexual relationships.”

So while we arguably spend too much time focusing on children, when it comes to the topic of nontraditional marriage, maybe we should start focusing on them more. One of the few parenting conversations that is not child-centric might be well served to become so. These are questions of rights and equality for adults, yes, but also questions of what is good for the kids.



Young boys are gripped with asphyxiating fear before marriage when they notice that they do not get hard on as they used to.
"How can I marry?
How can I do sex?
On getting married if I am not able to do sexual intercourse, how shameful it will be?
Running away from home or dying is better.
Why should I spoil an innocent girl's life?
How can I give her sexual satisfaction, which is primary to married relation?
Will she not seek love out of marriage?"

"Doctor my cock is not hard enough." He adds, "my penis is small in size." These young men keep postponing their wedding. When they run out of excuses the need to see a sex therapist is imminent.

There are many young men who are haunted like a ghost with a grave unspeakable doubt about their capability to do sex because they can see their penis is not stiff enough even when they are watching porn movies. The penis has shrunk and become small.

Sex Therapists work is not as simple as that of Medical Specialists, who write prescription for medicines and there ends doctor's job. A significant part of treatment given by Sex Therapist consists of sessions of psycho sexual therapy, correction of cognitive disorders. The doctor who specializes in treating sexual dysfunctions cannot finish his job in 10 minutes and call the next patient in. The matter is extremely important in the person's life. The doctor has to give adequate time so that his words work like powerful magic. No doubt the results are absolutely fantastic. It is satisfying to see them regain confidence and get married and have sexual intercourse as normal people do.




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