Where Do Kids Learn About Sex?
Birds, Bees, and Teens
One Million Teen Pregnancies Each Year
Although teen pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S. declined
significantly during the 1990s, approximately 1 million American teenage girls
still get pregnant each year. That is by far the highest rate of teen
pregnancies of any industrialized nation -- and eight out of 10 are unplanned,
according to NCPTP figures.
After rising 23% between 1972 and 1990, pregnancies among girls
between the ages of 15 and 19 declined 17% between 1990 and 1996. The teen
birth rate dropped by 20% between 1991 and 1999, to approximately 50 births per
1,000 young women.
So is the drop in teen pregnancies due to fewer adolescents
having sex or to better contraception use among those who are sexually
The answer depends on whom you ask. Groups promoting abstinence
until marriage say their message is finally getting through, and statistics do
suggest fewer teens are having sex than a decade ago. High-profile celebrities
who have gone public with their virginity, such as pop singer Jessica Simpson
and NBA star A.C. Green, have helped to give the abstinence movement a certain
cachet among the young.
"I go to a private school, and the majority of my peers are
abstinent," 18-year-old high school junior Nick Reid tells WebMD. "I
don't know if you can say that at most public schools, but that may be a gross
generalization." Reid, who lives in Nashville, serves on the NCPTP's youth
A report from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the nation's
largest nonprofit organization studying reproductive health, suggests
three-fourths of the recent decline in pregnancies among teens is due to better
contraceptive use and only one-fourth is due to abstinence.
"If people are suggesting that abstinence is the primary
reason for the decline in pregnancy rates, that is just not accurate," says
Cynthia Dailard, senior policy analyst with the institute. "We see
politicians, including the president, pushing abstinence-only education and
calling for teens to abstain from sex. But research shows that comprehensive
methods of sexual education that discuss methods of contraception, while
encouraging teenagers to delay sexual activity, are most effective."