First, the good news: The teen birth rate (girls ages 15-19) in the United States has been declining over the last two decades. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
In 2013, there were 26.5 births for every 1,000 adolescent females ages 15-19, or 273,105 babies born to females in this age group. Nearly eighty-nine percent of these births occurred outside of marriage. The 2013 teen birth rate indicates a decline of ten percent from 2012 when the birth rate was 29.4 per 1,000. The teen birth rate has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years. In 1991, the U.S. teen birth rate was 61.8 births for every 1,000 adolescent females, compared with 26.5 births for every 1,000 adolescent females in 2013.
The bad news? The U.S. continues to lead all industrialized western nations in the number of teen pregnancies. (Switzerland has the lowest rate among developed nations — far lower than the U.S. Among all nations worldwide, Mexico and Subsaharan Africa top the list.) The other bit of bad news:
Not all teen births are first births. In 2013, one in six (17 percent) births to 15- to 19-year-olds were to females who already had one or more babies.
Still, it’s nice to see something trending in a desired direction! The reason why teen births have been declining is because teen pregnancy rates are declining. The CDC has data suggesting that there are two major factors driving this recent decline in teen pregnancies: Teens appear to be less sexually active nowadays, and they are using contraceptives more than ever.
You might be surprised to learn that teenagers regard their parents as having the greatest influence on their decisions about sex. Not their friends; not their potential sexual partners; not the media.
The influence that parents have regarding their children’s sexual activity can be positive, but, as Karen Bardossi explains, a recent national survey shows it can be negative as well:
When researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 501 adolescents aged 13 to 17 years, 68% agreed with the statement, “The primary reason why teens don’t use birth control or protection is because they are afraid that that their parents will find out.”
But the survey indicates that perhaps teens shouldn’t worry so much about this:
The survey also revealed a gap between the teenagers’ fears about their parents’ reaction to their sexual activity and the adults’ response to another survey question. Asked how they would react if they found out their teenager was having sex, most of the adults, 68%, replied that they hoped the teenager would talk to them so that they could help ensure that he or she was using birth control.
A much smaller number, 21%, said they hoped the teenager would talk to them so that they could try to convince him or her to stop having sex. Only 4% said they would be angry and express disappointment, and only 3% said they’d rather not know about it.
So parents: You need to have “The Talk” with your children — early and often. We’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s post on The PediaBlog.