In recent studies performed by the National Survey of Family Growth, researchers have noticed a striking decline in contraception education in American teenagers. While the Guttmacher Institute reports that teen pregnancy rates are lower than they were 20 years ago, it’s not because teens are being educated about sex, STDs and how to prevent pregnancy in our schools.
Teen pregnancy, birth and abortion rates were at their highest in the early 1990s.
In 2010, about 614,000 pregnancies occurred in teens ages 15-19, which is a 51 percent decline from the numbers in the early 1990s.
Researchers who participated in the study believed that the decline was due to more prolific sex education, easier access to birth control for teens, and more frequent conversations among teens and parents about how to prevent pregnancies and STDs. However, a recent study done by the National Survey of Family Growth shows that sex education has actually declined in schools across America in the last few years. Federal policy is no longer preaching the “abstinence only before marriage” method of birth control, and yet our schools still aren’t engaging in healthy contraception and sex education talks with students.
According to data from the Guttmacher Institute, 70 percent of teenage girls reported having had sex and contraception education in their schools or through conversations with their parents in between 2006 and 2010. In the 2011–13 range, however, that number declined to 60 percent of girls reporting they had received sex and contraception education. That’s a striking 10 percent move in the wrong direction in the span of only five years.
With more federal funding being given to the cause of educating young women – even with initiatives like providing free birth control options like IUDs – the number of young girls who are learning about contraception and sex should be increasing rather than decreasing.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that the federal government still spends about $75 million per year promoting an “abstinence until marriage” method of birth control, according to The Washington Post. Frankly, that is simply no longer a viable option for America’s teens. Surveys have shown that these abstinence-only initiatives have done very little to prevent teens from having sex or preventing pregnancy – so why are we still spending money here?
The recent decline could also be caused by the shifting standards of education in American schools today, suggests The Huffington Post. With the Common Core overhaul well under way, placing more emphasis on method and test results, the education landscape in this country is changing. Maybe teachers and school districts are scrambling to meet new standards, and sex education has not been made a priority.
The bottom line is that the decline needs to be stopped, and more teens – both boys and girls alike – should be receiving sex and contraception education in school or at home.
Studies have shown that the act of educating teenagers ultimately leads to lower pregnancy rates – knowledge is power, after all. While right now, the rate of teen pregnancy is at an all-time low and it seems like we are moving in the right direction, we need to be proactive and ensure that students are educated about their options for safe sex to ensure that the rate continues to decline. If teens are not given the education they need, those low birth rate numbers are likely to be only temporary. Keeping pregnancy rates low requires ensuring access to relevant information, context and education – and it can’t just come from the internet.
For more information on sex and contraception education and how we can help you have a conversation with your son or daughter, call us today at 585-271-3850.