From Addressing Barriers to Learning,
Vol. 1 (4), Fall, 1996
New Approaches to
Teen Pregnancy Prevention
A new report by Adolescent Pregnancy Childwatch in Santa Monica, California reframes ideas about teen pregnancy prevention and suggest strategies that work. For copies of the complete report, contact APCW, 1316 3rd Street Promenade, Suite B-5, Santa Monica, CA: 90401 (310)395-0098.
Reframing Our Thinking
This report offers three approaches to "challenge us to think about teen pregnancy in fresh ways." What follows are excerpts from the Executive Summary.
I. The Healthy Sexuality Approach: From
Disease Prevention to Health Promotion
Our present approach focuses on teenagers' "activity" or "behavior"- what they "do" rather than on natural, evolving adolescent sexuality. Present strategies are based on fear, rather than understanding one's sexual development. . . . A positive, developmental approach . . . recognizes that . . . "society has a responsibility to help adolescents understand and accept their evolving sexuality and to help them make responsible sexual choices . . . ."
II. A Comprehensive Approach: From
"Below the Waist" to the Whole Person
Researchers like Claire Brindis and Joy Dryfoos have been pointing out for some time the importance of a comprehensive approach . . . . One of the most effective examples of this approach is that pioneered by Michael Carrera . . . , which will have been successfully replicated in 16 sites in New York City and 23 locations outside the city by next year. . . .
Early on, Carrera understood that teen pregnancy is not simply a "genital problem" and not a "female sexuality problem". Rather, teen pregnancy is to a great extent a response to greater social and economic ills. Thus, he built his . . . program around the belief that "unintended pregnancies among poor, urban teens can be more effectively curtailed if we reduce the impact of the institutional racism that is systemic in our society; if we provide quality education for everyone; and if we create more employment opportunities for young people and adults." . . . The comprehensive approach, as implemented by Carrera, includes the following eight components: 1) a family life and sexuality education program, 2) medical and health services, 3) mental health services, 4) self-esteem enhancement through the performing arts, 5) lifetime individual sports, 6) academic assessment and homework help, 7) a job club and career awareness program, and 8) a college admission program.
III. A Societal Approach: from Teen to Adult
Sexuality and Community Responsibility
. . . we cannot separate adolescent sexuality from adult sexuality. Whether we are talking about the models of sexual behavior that children learn from their parents, the unconscious messages they receive from teachers and social workers or other professionals who work with young people, or the media images that surround them, it is clear that adult attitudes and values about sexuality affect them. . . .
It is no longer realistic to view the adolescent as responsible for the increase in single parent families. The data urge us to focus on the societal issues as they relate to unemployment and job opportunities, changing attitudes about gender roles, welfare reform policy, and the changing structure of the family.
Based on the above three approaches, the report presents a discussion of a comprehensive set of promising prevention strategies. These are summarized in the following table.
Prevention Strategies That Work
(From a 1996 report by Adolescent Pregnancy Childwatch)
1. Reduce Adult Discomfort with Their Own and Adolescent Sexuality
2. Develop a Family Approach to Teenage Pregnancy Prevention.
- Provide on-going training of trainers that increases knowledge, expands wisdom, and develops cultural understanding.
- Recognize that adolescent patterns of sexuality and birth rates mirror those of adults.
- Help parents become more comfortable with their own sexuality and better able to communicate with their children about difficult issues.
- Utilize a parent/school-linked approach to provide family life/sexuality education at the elementary level.
- Create a place for parent education and involvement in all school and community based sexuality curricula.
- Raise community awareness that research is clear that there is no correlation between sexuality education and increased rates of intercourse.
- Develop sexuality education and communication training for all adults who work with children and youth.
Promote Healthy Sexuality
3. Promote Caring, Consistent Adult Involvement for Every Child
- Provide sexuality education at all levels, including sessions for parents, peer group activities and programs for young children.
- Offer prevention programs that are age-appropriate and include knowledge of contraception as well as abstinence, self-esteem, gender identity and roles, tools for setting and achieving goals, and hope for the future.
- Develop parenting/child development programs for new parents, including hospital and home visit programs.
- Recognize the association between child abuse/child sexual abuse and teen pregnancy and work to develop prevention and intervention programs.
- Re-frame teen pregnancy prevention as a female and male issue.
- Support policies and programs which enhance responsible fathering and male involvement.
- Improve strategies for linking community members with community resources and services.
4. Build Healthy Communities Through Sound Economic and Social Development
- Parents must be educated about the importance of their consistent involvement in their children's lives.
- Encourage adults in the community to become mentors and make them aware of the importance of an adult in children's lives.
- Encourage inter-generational activities and involvement. Develop more creative ways for seniors to become involved with children and young adults.
- Provide extra-curricular activities at school and other community sites, involving adults from the community as volunteer coaches, counselors, and mentors.
5. Promote Media Responsibility and Counteract Negative Media Images
- Expand job creation, skill building, career options awareness.
- Utilize tax incentives and public/private partnerships to invest in human capital.
- Minimum wage or Earned Income Credit for all full time working which corresponds to a living wage.
- Dramatically expand accessible, affordable, flexible, quality child care. Put them in all high and middle schools for use by the whole community as child development training labs.
- Provide all children and young adults involvement with work-related skill building and exposure to employment opportunities.
- Make urban renewal and restoration of neighborhoods a priority. Families and children should be proud of where they live and feel safe. Schools should be clean and safe.
6. Reaffirm the Importance of Values and the Involvement of Religious and Other Organizations
- Encourage broadcast and print media to take responsibility for establishing ethical standards regarding both advertising and editorial portrayals of sexual images of boys and girls, women and men, and sexuality and violence.
- Make your concerns heard- respond to the media with letters to the editor, broadcasting company, television program or advertiser. Boycott advertisers who use sexually provocative ads and support those that use positive images.
- Create positive images in any media or editorial campaigns you do.
- Promote media literacy. Talk to children about the images they are seeing and hearing from the media.
- Create billboard project to lobby against negative, violent, gender division images.
- Provide training for advertising and entertainment industry about negative consequences of irresponsible and sexual images and messages.
- "Walk the Walk" of valuing our children. Make children our first priority in terms of time, funding, creative programs.
- Moral relativism is not working for raising caring, responsible, inner-directed children. A need for renewed connection with a spiritual center is widely recognized.
- Mobilize religious congregations and members to make a recommitment to their own and other people's children.
- Involve churches, temples and other faith organizations in planning activities and implementing parenting and teen pregnancy prevention programs.
- More frank and positive discussion regarding responsibilities as an individual and a member of society- incorporate character education programs like "Character Counts".
- Encourage the development of an interfaith coalition around sexuality issues.