Last week, we talked about the high teen pregnancy and STD infection rates in the U.S. compared to other developed countries. It turns out that differing societal attitudes towards teen sexuality is the biggest factor accounting for the huge gap. European parents and other adults are much more accepting of teen sexuality and teens consider it the norm to take precautions when engaging in sexual activity.
Quite different from the “sex is bad” approach so common in this country.
Aside from changing our entire country’s cultural norms around sexuality, what can we do to reduce teen pregnancy and STD infection rates?
Thankfully, several years ago The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy commissioned a study on this topic. Published in 2007 and conducted by Douglas Kirby, Ph.D., a highly regarded researcher with ETR Associates in California, Emerging Answers 2007 is a comprehensive review of research findings on what works in teen pregnancy prevention.
The report (all 204 pages of it) can be found here.
I expect the entire report will only be read by people working in the field of teen pregnancy prevention. For everyone else who has an interest in reducing teen pregnancy and STD rates, but isn’t really up for reading such a document, here are some gems I’ve pulled together for you.
- There are many risk and protective factors in the lives of young people that have a significant causal impact on sexual behaviors affecting the incidence of teen pregnancy or STD infection.
- Many of these factors can be changed through evidence-based programs offered in schools and youth-serving organizations.
- A teen’s level of attachment to school and community can make a difference, with the following being protective factors:
- Higher academic performance.
- High educational aspirations and plans for the future.
- Being involved in the community.
- In addition, parents and families can offer powerful protective factors, including things like:
- High-quality family interactions, connectedness, satisfaction with relationships.
- Greater parental supervision and monitoring.
- Parental acceptance and support of contraceptive use for sexually active teens.
- Greater parent-child communication about sex and condoms or contraception, especially before a teen initiates sex.
We may not be able to change U.S. culture completely, but in our own homes and local communities, we can certainly create opportunities that provide young people with a wealth of protective factors on their journey to adulthood.