Lifelike Doll May Actually Encourage Teen Pregnancies
March 10, 2000 (New York) -- Taking care of a lifelike doll does not change
teens' attitudes about pregnancy, according to a new study in the March issue
of the journal Pediatrics. The new findings call attention to the need
for more intensive, multi-tiered efforts to discourage teen pregnancy.
After caring for "Baby Think It Over" -- a seven pound, lifelike
infant -- for three days and two nights, just 29% of 109 sixth and eight
graders said they thought that caring for a real infant would be like caring
for the doll, says the report.
The most recent statistics show that the teen birth rate in 1998 for ages
15-19 had declined by 18% since 1991. Still, more than four out of 10 young
women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20, according
to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, in Washington, D.C.
Similar to a real infant, Baby Think It Over lets out a "loud, hard"
cry every 15 minutes to four hours all day long. The baby can only be silenced
by inserting a care key in its back. Only the designated caretaker has the key
and it must be held in place from one to 30 minutes. Study participants also
carried around a diaper bag for the duration of the study period.
Despite the fact that most teens found the doll difficult to care for,
"little learning about the difficulties of parenting took place and [Baby
Think it Over] had almost no effect on the student's childbearing
intentions," report study authors Judith Kralewski, RN, MSN, CPNP, and
Catherine Stevens-Simon, MD, who were both at the University of Colorado Health
Sciences Center in Denver when the study was conducted.
In fact, the more difficult the teen found doll care, the more likely they
were to say it would be easier to care for a real infant, the study showed.
Teens who perceive parenthood to be attractive may overlook the negative
aspects of any parenting experience they have, study authors point out.
"We're disappointed with the results," says Carol Lambert,
spokesperson for Baby Think It Over Inc. in Eau Claire, Wisc. "But the
study only focused on the doll and not the whole program which includes
different parenting activities such as budgeting and child abuse prevention
According to Lambert, more than 1 million teen-agers have participated in
the program, and other studies have shown it to be of benefit.
In this study, participating students filled out three questionnaires. The
first questionnaire was administered before the experiment. It gauged the
teen's background information as well as their feelings about parenting. The
second looked at their feelings about doll care before and after the experiment
with questions such as "it will be (was) hard to wake up at night and feed
the doll" and "it will be (was) hard to get ready for school and care
for the doll." The third series of questions addressed real baby care with
questions including "my baby would be easier than (the same as) the doll