Do you agree with the statement that the TV show “16 and pregnant” promotes teen pregnancy?
Teenage pregnancy is a worldwide problem. According to a study conducted by UNICEF (2008), more than 4 million women in 2008, ages 15 to 19, are victims of teenage pregnancy. Note that UNICEF defines teenage pregnancy as pregnant women from ages 13 to 19. The study further shows that there are diverse factors that influence the rate of teenage pregnancy. One of these factors is inappropriate adolescent sexual behaviour. Wright (2011) explains that such behaviour is greatly affected by the mass media. Accordingly, TV shows could affect teenage sexual behaviour. “16 and Pregnant,” is a TV show that continuously attracts researchers and critiques due to the nature of its media contents. Some people argue that it promotes teenage pregnancy while others argue otherwise. This essay argues that “16 and Pregnant” does not promote teenage pregnancy.
“16 and Pregnant” Does not Show Sexual Acts
According to Wright (2011), a TV show can cause negative or inappropriate sexual behaviour if it presents or glamorizes sexual acts. For example, a TV show that shows nudity will most likely promote inappropriate sexual behaviour. “16 and Pregnant,” however, televises none of such things. In fact, this TV show is a documentary series which highlights the difficulties in the lives of pregnant teenagers.
It never had any episode where it showed sexual acts, nudity, or sexual intercourse. What it focuses on are the mental, emotional, and financial hardships that teenage pregnant women undergo; perhaps with the aim of informing or warning teenagers about the realities of teenage pregnancies. In other words, the core message of “16 and Pregnant” is that teenage pregnancy is no good; not only it adversely affects the pregnant women directly, it also adversely affect the people that they are with.
“16 and Pregnant” Inform Parents and Teenagers
The study of Kearny & Levine (2014) supports this view about the intended aim of “16 and Pregnant.” The study focused on determining whether the TV show encourages teenagers to avoid teenage pregnancy by using contraceptives, and if it encourages them to become responsible parents in the future. The study used the social media, specifically Twitter and Google Trends, to look into the changes in tweets and searches that happen from watching the show.
An increase in the search and tweet about birth control was recorded because of the show. Their findings also points out to a 5.7% decrease in teen births within the 18 month period from the pilot of the show. This study provides strong evidences for this essay’s argument.
What can be drawn from the study of Kearny & Levine is that “16 and Pregnant” serves as a source of information as well as a means for teenagers to become more aware about teenage pregnancy and reproductive health in general. Rickel (1989) points out that watching TV shows could become venues for parents and their children to talk about sex and sexuality. Such discussions could help teenagers let go of their curiosities about sex. Note that curiosity and lack of knowledge about sex are major reasons why teenagers engage in pre-marital sex, which eventually leads to teenage pregnancies.
The information that we get from TV shows could influence our respective sexual behaviours. We should, therefore, be careful in selecting the TV shows that we watch. We must select those that inform us about the real effects of inappropriate or negative sexual behaviours – “16 and Pregnant” is one of such TV shows.
- Kearney, M. and Levine, P. (2014). Media Influences On Social Outcomes: The Impact Of MTV’s 16 And Pregnant On Teen Childbearing. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series. No. 19795. Retrieved from: <http://www.nber.org/papers/w19795>.
- Rickel, A.U. (1989). Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting. New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation.
- UNICEF Malaysia Communications. (2008). Young People and Family Planning: Teenage Pregnancy. Retrieved from: <http://www.unicef.org/malaysia/Teenage_Pregnancies_-_Overview.pdf.>.
- Wright, P.J. (2011). Mass Media Effects of Youth Sexual Behaviour: Assessing the Cliam for Causality. Retrieved from: <http://www.indiana.edu/~telecom/people/faculty/wright/Mass_Media_Effects_on_Youth_Sexual_Behavior.pdf>.
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To understand which problems worry first world countries the most today, it is usually enough to check the headlines in major newspapers. Although mass media tends to pay a lot of attention to one problem while completely ignoring others, still referring to them is a sound way to learn about major social, political, and cultural issues. Today, along with news about diplomatic scandals, wars, epidemics, and economic crises, headlines are often dedicated to teen pregnancy, which is a real scourge of modern American society.
By teen pregnancy, experts usually understand it to be pregnancy among young women between the ages of 15 and 17 years. In 2013, on average, 13 teens out of 1,000 peers were pregnant. According to recent studies, teen pregnancies have declined in the United States, but the teenage representatives of some social and/or ethnic groups seem to be in the risk zone; for example, African-American and Hispanic teens in the U.S. are two to three times more likely to become pregnant than Caucasian teens. Moreover, it is reported that nearly one in five teen births is a repeat birth, which means that pregnancy for these teens is not a first time occurrence (HealthCommunities.com).
But what risks do teenage to-be mothers face? In fact, being a teenage mother is truly difficult, even compared to regular pregnancy. For example, teens are at a high risk of not getting appropriate prenatal care, as they are often afraid to tell their parents about their pregnancies, and cannot afford prenatal care themselves. Pregnant teens often get high blood pressure, or pregnancy-induced hypertension, as well as preeclampsia much more often than pregnant women who are in their 20s or 30s. Teens are also more likely to give birth to premature babies, meaning that the pregnancies do not last for the regular 40 weeks; also, teenage mothers are exposed to higher risks of having low-birth-weight babies (usually 1,500 to 2,500 grams, and sometimes even less). A very-low-birth-weight baby weighs less than 3.3 pounds. Among other risk factors for teen mothers are STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), postpartum depression, and so on (WebMD).
Along with health problems, teenage mothers are usually less likely to finish high school, which decreases their chances to get adequate higher education, and then find a job to sustain themselves, and their child. It means, in its turn, that teenage mothers are more likely to live in poverty, be a single parent (and also divorce if they get married to the father of their child). Also, since teenage pregnancy is often unwanted and unexpected, teenage mothers are often more likely to abuse or neglect their babies (Sutter County).
Teenage pregnancy is a complicated modern phenomenon that requires the attention of governmental and non-governmental organizations, psychologists, and first of all, parents. Although the tendency of teenage pregnancy in the U.S. seems to be gradually decreasing, certain ethnic and/or social groups still remain vulnerable to this phenomenon. Becoming pregnant as a teenager leads to a number of health problems (such as preeclampsia, high blood pressure, STDs, depression, and so on), as well as to social consequences, such as divorce, a low quality of life, child abuse, and so on.
“Teen Pregnancy, Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy.”HEalthCommunities.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
“Teenage Pregnancy: Medical Risks and Realities.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
“Teen Pregnancy – Teen Pregnancy: It’s Everyone’s Problem.” SutterCounty. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
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