Teen Mom, the hit MTV reality series that sprang from 2012’s 16 and Pregnant, usually doesn’t get many kudos from parenting groups and adults in general.
There is a feeling around parenting circles that the shows glorify the life of a pregnant teen/teen mom and that they are a terrible influence on young people, who are coming into their sexual own.
However, new research shows that at the very least Teen Mom isn’t having a negative effect at all. In fact, it could actually be helping.
That’s because the teen pregnancy rates are now at “historic lows,” according to a Mic report, with 24 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19.
That represents a 9 percent drop in teen pregnancies from 2013 to 2014, and while “correlation does not equal causation,” as Mic‘s EJ Dickson notes, it can’t exactly be ignored.
That’s because the rates have been consistently falling since 16 and Pregnant first appeared. Actually the rates have been declining since 1991, but here’s why Teen Mom is significant in all this.
These numbers, per the National Center for Health Statistics, are now in the category of “all-time lows,” and that’s in spite of virtually every teen in America being aware of the existence of Teen Mom.
Furthermore, as Dickson points out, teens who have seen the shows and responded to surveys see them as more sobering than anything else.
That’s because the shows often depict the stresses and harsh realities that come with being any kind of a parent, let alone a teen parent who is also trying to go to school and better themselves while dealing with the stigma that, like it or not, still exists surrounding teen parentage.
Of course, one must proceed with caution in all of this, and fans of Teen Mom shouldn’t be celebrating just yet.
That’s because of a study that Dickson fails to mention in her assessment of the matter.
According to Indiana University, a study reported in January of 2014 found that “heavy” viewers of the shows had unrealistic views of what teen pregnancy was actually like.
“Heavy viewers of teen mom reality programs were more likely to think that teen moms have a lot of time to themselves, can easily find child care so that they can go to work or school and can complete high school than were lighter viewers of such shows,” the study noted.
The study’s authors, Nicole Martins, an assistant professor of telecommunications in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU, and Robin Jensen, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah, also had data to back it up, questioning 185 high school students on the program.
“The fact that teens in the study seemed to think that being a teen parent was easy might increase the likelihood that they’ll engage in unsafe sexual practices, because that’s not a real consequence to them,” Martins said.
“As you study reality television with younger populations, you’re going to find that younger children are going to have a harder time understanding that this is something that is scripted, edited and put together in a purposeful way to create a narrative and a drama… there are some individuals who believe that this reality TV show is like real life. For them, they were the most likely ones to hold unrealistic perception about teen parenthood.”
But what do you think, readers?
Are shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom doing a service for teens, or is the drop in teen pregnancy completely unrelated to the show?
Sound off in the comments section, and if you’re a parent, what does your teenager think about the series?
[Image via MTV]