|EW REPORTS HAVE been released, and the news is good for teens, their parents and our families. The teen pregnancy rate in the United States has declined by 36 percent between 1990 and 2002.|
Since 1990, when the teen pregnancy rate peaked at over 115 pregnancies per 1,000 females aged 15-19, the rate today has fallen below 75 pregnancies. More good news follows.
While many preach the hopelessness of teaching abstinence to sexually active teens, the statistics prove otherwise. Hopeless? Among sexually experienced teens, the rate for teen pregnancies declined 28 percent during this time period. It is concrete validation of what other research has shown ... when teens reflect on their choice to become sexually active, they are more likely than not to regret it.
We have turned the tide in America. We are on a new course, moving in the direction of healthy teens and a healthy future for our teens. Yet, much work must be done.
Today, still, there are about 750,000 teen pregnancies annually. The costs are staggering.
Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, was in Phoenix this week to present an analysis of those costs. For Arizonans, teen childbearing cost taxpayers at least $268 million in 2004 ... or $3,822 per teen birth.
Importantly, most of these costs are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers ... our next generation. High costs for public healthcare, child welfare, incarceration, and lost tax revenue are all associated with children born to teens.
Add to this economic analysis the well-known costs of teen sex related to sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional and social consequences of being sexually active, and we know there is more work to be done. The news is good. It must be better.
When asked by her audience why other countries are more successful than the United States in preventing teen pregnancy, Sarah Brown’s answer was straightforward. In Asian countries where the rates of teen pregnancy are lowest, there is a strong cultural taboo against teens engaging in sex. Not surprisingly, as these cultures begin to adopt Western sexual standards, their teen pregnancy rates are rising.
Ms. Brown also expanded upon the need to restore cultural norms supporting sexual abstinence for teens. She explained the importance of linking babies with healthy marriages. The body of research today documents that healthy outcomes for children improve when they are born into families where mothers and fathers work together to raise them.
Can single parents be successful as parents? Absolutely! But when we consider society as a whole, we all reap the benefits of encouraging teens to delay sex ... and childbearing ... until they are ready to commit to a healthy, happy marriage.
Parents and educators are on a positive course correction. Working together, we are restoring a common-sense approach to sex, love, marriage and families ... rebuilding a personal and cultural expectation that once was common place.
A lot of work has been done changing the course of behavior for teens regarding sex, but more has yet to be done. Our message is on track. Sex for teens is a risky behavior that produces unhealthy outcomes. Or ... said another way ... for teens, sexual abstinence until marriage secures the healthiest outcomes for them physically, socially, emotionally and economically.
Our message is on track ... our results are on track. Now, we must stay the course.
A former elementary school teacher, Jane Jimenez (firstname.lastname@example.org) is now a freelance writer dedicated to issues of importance to women and the family. She writes a regular column titled "From the Home Front." Her work has appeared in both Christian and secular publications. Jane and her husband Victor live in Phoenix and have two children.
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