Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Lifelike Doll May Actually Encourage Teen Pregnancies

By
WebMD Health News

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 exercises."

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 because ..."

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow