Teen pregnancy has risen for the second time in two years, after a fourteen year decline, according to new statistics available from the National Center for Health Statistics. After a low in 2005 of less than 40 births per thousand girls aged 15-19, the number had climbed by 2007 to 42.5 births per 1000 teen girls. To put it another, rather stunning way, in a high school with 500 girls, that’s 21 babies each year.
Statisticians aren’t willing to call this two-year rise a “trend” yet. Apparently, the rule of thumb is that it takes three years to make a trend. But many are speculating that it will prove to be one and many are pointing fingers about the cause. Suspect number one? Abstinence-only education.
I freely admit to being very persuaded by that hypothesis. Let’s face it, whether they ought to or not, whether we want them to or not, whether we tell them not to or not, roughly half of teens are having sex. That’s a lot of kids playing Russian roulette with their health and with pregnancy if we don’t also provide them with plenty of education about sex, health and reproduction, and offer them bushels of free and easy condoms.
When I read or hear stories about teen sexuality and pregnancy, my automatic response is to dig up It’s Not the Stork and read it again to my four-year old daughter. Four may seem for some to be too early for sex ed, but my philosophy is that if we start now, when the topic does not include my volatile anxiety about actual romantic partners and possible sexual activity, talking about it later (and probably sooner than I think) will be all that much more natural when the subject is fraught with immediate practical importance.
What’s your theory about the rising teen birth rate? And what, if anything, do you do to prepare your children for the world of sexuality in their tender years, before they really enter it?