From Addressing Barriers to Learning,
Vol. 1 (4), Fall, 1996

Lessons Learned

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.
Promote Healthy Sexuality

3. Promote Caring, Consistent Adult Involvement for Every Child

4. Build Healthy Communities Through Sound Economic and Social Development

5. Promote Media Responsibility and Counteract Negative Media Images

6. Reaffirm the Importance of Values and the Involvement of Religious and Other Organizations

Newsletter Menu
Home Page

School Mental Health Project-UCLA
WebMaster: Perry Nelson (