New Study Credits MTV’s ’16 And Pregnant’ For Dramatic Dip In Teen Pregnancies

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January 14, 2014 ‐ By Kimberly Gedeon
Teen mom Leah from 16 and Pregnant's Facebook page

Teen mom Leah from 16 and Pregnant’s Facebook page

So while many critics have been chastising MTV’s 16 and Pregnant for glamorizing teen pregnancy, a new study finds that the controversial reality show has dropped the rate of child-bearing teens by nearly six percent, CNN reports.

Released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the report says that MTV’s 16 and Pregnant is to be credited for America’s 5.7 percent dip in teen moms. Since the show’s inception in 2009, the reality series rattled many nerves as teens pranced around with their round tummies and attained fame for the buns in their ovens.

One writer from CNN, under the title “MTV’s ‘Teen Mom’ Glamorizes Getting Pregnant,” expressed her disgust with the reality TV series:

“Why would anyone want to promote a behavior that often leaves families trapped in a cycle of poverty? Who would knowingly encourage activity that often leads to poor prenatal care, lower birth weight babies and more preterm births?”

Little did the writer know, however, that the show actually does the complete opposite of what she believed. The teen pregnancy rate — between 1991 and 2008 — has been dropping at a steady rate of about 2.5 percent a year. But within the past four years, during 16 & Pregnant’s peak, the teen pregnancy rate dropped dramatically at a 7.5 percent rate.

When 16 and Pregnant aired, Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine, the two lead investigators of the study, analyzed Nielsen ratings as well as search data from Google and Twitter. The pair found that geographic locations that gossiped the most about 16 & Pregnant also saw a spike in “birth control” and “abortion” searches. 

Most interestingly, the two also discovered that places that watched 16 & Pregnant the most had the biggest drops in teen pregnancy.

“The results of our analysis indicate that exposure to ’16 and Pregnant’ was high and that it had an influence on teens’ thinking regarding birth control and abortion,” the researchers wrote.

The most compelling evidence, Kearney and Levine noted, was the social media language. “This reminds me to take my birth control,” said one tweet. “‘Watching 16 & Pregnant, going to take my birth control,” another would say.

But of course, the MTV isn’t solely responsible for the drop in teen pregnancy rates. The researchers also point to the recession being the main driving force behind the dip in early pregnancies. Teens were more conscientious about how difficult it would be to find a job and provide for the baby.

In short, Kearney and Levine credit MTV’s 16 and Pregnant for preventing 20,000 teen pregnancies — one third of the overall decline in childbearing teenagers.

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  • Kendra Shavonne Mua

    I think with the economy, a lot more parents weren’t as considered with materialistic things versus spending quality time with the kids. PLUS with violence, molestations, etc going on, I think parents have taken more of an active role which sequentially led to teens not looking for love in all the wrong places. And a lot of parents watch 16 and pregnant and Teen Mom as well which opens the dialog for talks. Everything starts at home. Just my opinion.

  • Trisha_B

    I feel liked some of the girls (on teen mom) on the show are probably a lot worse than they would have been if they didn’t do the show. Seeing those girls on drugs, makes me think if MTV wasn’t paying them 250,000 they wouldn’t have had money to splurge on drugs…..then I think how much truth there is about the show. They are always complaning about money & not being able to afford this or that, but yet they get that huge check from MTV, they all drive brand new cars, & move into new apartments like every couple of months lol

    I think young girls are seeing a baby can’t keep a man. That’s probably what’s scaring them the most into not becoming teen parents. B/c a lot of them have the fairy tale that they will live happily ever after

  • hollyw

    This is not a causal study.

  • ANN

    I believe it I have sen the show and all it shows is the struggle of having kids so young and how the guys that young are not father material. Pretty much none of them are with the fathers and most of terrible relationships with them. The struggle with school and most drop out and get their GEDS. Some attempt college many do not finish or have to take huge breaks. Young people have this idea that if I get knocked up we will be a family and this how break all those fairy tale ideas. It shows the lack of sleep the suffering relationship with friends and family. How having a child forces you to grow up, you can not go out when you want and go where you want ll the time because you have to consider you have a baby. I know not just teens but many young adults that say this show scared them off of sex or made them much safer when having sex and picker about who they have sex with.

    • Kendra Shavonne Mua

      The only happy couple is the one who gave their baby up for adoption. That speaks volumes.

  • ChiTown Princess

    I have a 16 year old niece and she told me 16 And Pregnant show and her classmates getting pregnant at her age and younger made her abstain from s*x altogether and never want to have a baby without marriage first, thank you Jesus!

    • Lisa

      That’s great. Basically 95% of the couples break up before having the kid. And the girls are always crying, dealing with verbal abuse, physical abuse, they they realize their mate isn’t perfect and they are a single mom. Kinda sucks to have all that happen so young. Glad the show is helping.

  • Jess

    Wait, I remember learning that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Does that not apply here?

  • FromUR2UB

    I’ve seen the show. What was the glamorous part?