Friday, 2 February 2007

Teenage pregnancy

I spent what felt like years, but was probably only two plus several bits, studying part-time for a further degree in health psychology. It was very relevant to the job I was doing at the time and it's a subject that fascinates me.

One particular aspect which interests me is reproductive health so when I spotted two blogs, first The Well-Timed Period: Who Doesn't Use Birth Control and then figleaf (note: adult content with some very thought provoking posts), had picked up on a BBC report “Teenage pregnancy myth dismissed” - I delved a bit further. So far in fact that I ended up emailing the authors and they very kindly sent me a copy of the original paper.

The main finding is that “older women” are as irresponsible as teenagers about contraception, with around 50% not having used contraceptives at all. I’m not disputing their findings an any way – far from it. It’s just that I would have liked more information. I think there probably is quite a lot more to be tweaked out of the data.

I have difficulty in understanding why the researchers made a division of the population into teenagers and not-teenagers. What happens when they are 20? Are they expected to change their attitudes suddenly? I don’t know why they did that, and especially when you see that the mean age of the so-called older women was 28. There must have been a much greater number in their twenties than in their thirties or forties (the range was 20 – 46). It would have been interesting to see those age groups separately, if not the raw data. It might show more in the way of trends.

Given that teenagers were expected to be more irresponsible, and that there have been a number of government initiatives since 1999 trying to combat teenage pregnancies, it could be the sex education has worked to some extent. Teenagers are now no worse than other age groups.

The results are dire however. I have to say in the case of this research and where it was carried out, social problems will have had a very large influence. It is an area of high unemployment, overcrowded housing, and so on.

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