You can’t “catch” pregnancy like you can a common cold, right? We all know what causes that, and it’s nothing you’re going to get from hanging around your pregnant girlfriends.
While pregnancy can’t be “caught” like the flu, it still might be contagious. At least among teenage girls. That’s the finding of a new study British study that shows a profound effect of teen pregnancy on a girls’ sisters. Having an older sister get knocked up doubles the odds that you’ll become a pregnant teenager yourself.
Other factors like education can mitigate the effect, but the impact of a sister’s pregnancy seems to be the strongest influence on a girl’s own liklihood of becoming pregnant. At least our families still have more influence on us than lousy shows like 16 and Pregnant.
It’s not totally clear if an older sister’s pregnancy has a causal effect on her younger sister’s, or if it’s a correlation pointing at other factors the girls have in common, like growing up in a home where good information about sex is hard to come by. Jezebel points out some of the issues with the study:
It’s certainly possible that having an older sister get pregnant makes early sexual activity, unprotected sex, or teen motherhood seem more acceptable to teen girls. However, it’s also possible that girls who get pregnant come from families where birth control isn’t discussed or encouraged. And it’s not clear whether these influences have changed since the late twentieth century, when the data was gathered.
Regardless of the causes, this is not great news for educators, parents and social activists trying to curb teen pregnancies. The silver lining: it points up the need for more targeted sex education programs for at-risk teens.
Photo: brains the head