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MTV’s 16 and Pregnant Playing Role in Reducing Teen Pregnancy

pregnantTurns out teens aren’t clueless. Show them (don’t just tell them!) exactly what can happen when they do something you tell them not to do and they just might listen to you.

I’ve always maintained this position when it comes to those critics who say that the MTV smash hit 16 and Pregnant glamorizes pregnancy and encourages young girls to have babies.

If you’ve watched even one episode, which follows a different teen through pregnancy, childbirth and those first hellish weeks of parenthood, it’s more likely to scare you into abstaining or at least using of birth control. A new economic study of Nielsen television ratings and birth records confirms what I’ve always suspected. As The New York Times reports, 16 and Pregnant and its spinoff Teen Mom may have helped prevent more than 20,000 births to teenage mothers in 2010 which translates to a 6 percent reduction in the teenage birthrate.

Here’s how it went down according to The New York Times:

The economic analysis by Melissa S. Kearney, the director of the Hamilton Project, a research group in Washington, and Phillip B. Levine of Wellesley College examined birth records and Nielsen television ratings, finding that the rate of teenage pregnancy declined faster in areas where teenagers were watching more MTV programming — not only the “16 and Pregnant” series — than in areas where they did not. The study focuses on the period after “16 and Pregnant” was introduced in 2009 and accounts for the fact that teenagers who tuned in to the show might have been at higher risk of having a child to begin with.

The study included monitoring social media used by teens and shows a sharp spike in posts and Internet searches about contraception during the times the programs air. Additionally, the paper was reviewed by researchers who say the conclusions of the study are sound.

The reduction in teen pregnancies is the continuation of a trend reported in 2007 when it was noted that only 42 of every 1,000 teen girls gave birth compared to 62 teens out of 1,000 in 1991. That number has now dropped to 29 out of every 1,000. The study attributes the effect of 16 and Pregnant for about one-third of the decline during an 18-month period in 2010. Another major factor the study notes could account for the reduction in teen births is the recession.

What do you think? Does 16 and Pregnant glamorize pregnancy or is showing teens exactly how hard having a child can be a really effective deterrent?

Check out 11 more healthy reasons why we watch reality TV!

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