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Lifelike Doll May Actually Encourage Teen Pregnancies

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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 ..."

Before caring for the doll, 12% said that they wanted to be teen parents. Researchers found that after the experiment, 15% wanted to be parents. Of the participants, 17% of eight graders thought the doll was like real baby care, compared with 37% of sixth graders. But the sixth graders were more likely to think that real baby care would be easier, the study showed.

The authors write, "The results of this study suggest that during adolescence, pregnancy prevention programs that only try to discourage parenthood are apt to be ineffective. Therefore, it might be preferable to focus future research efforts on intervention strategies that ... help adolescents develop future-oriented goals that are more desirable than, and incompatible with, early childbearing."

Mariza Nightingale, spokesperson for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, agrees with this approach.

"There is a lot of data on promising approaches, but there is not one single magic bullet that prevents teen pregnancy. It takes a sustained effort," she tells WebMD. Teen pregnancy prevention programs that help teens set and reach goals and encourage parental involvement for long periods of time can help.

"A lot of research shows that parents matter," she says. "Kids want to know what parents think and when there isn't a clear set of [parental] values expressed, other things seep in."

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