There has been a dramatic drop in teen pregnancies in Connecticut, and it could be reality television shows helping to get the conversations about sex started between parents and teens.
Reality shows like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant show the less than glamorous side of teen pregnancy, from missing the prom to managing homework, and stretching a budget to its max.
“It really scared me, completely, and I want to push pregnancy off until I'm 30 and married,” said Danielle Engle of New Britain.
However, it isn’t about scaring teens but instead it is about getting the conversation going.
“For me and my team, we often look at these reality TV shows as a conduit, as a way that families can start conversations,” said Carmen Chaparro, of the Hartford Department of Health and Human Services.
Chaparro works to provide resources to teenagers and parents in Hartford.
She said teen pregnancy and sex may be tough to talk about for parents and teens, but a television show could be a great segue.
“It's more comfortable to talk about it now,” said Tori Czajkowski, of New Britain.
Nationally, the birth rate has been steadily declining for more than one decade, but shortly after the show 16 and Pregnant hit the airwaves, the teen pregnancy rate fell at an even faster rate, from an average decline of about 2.5 percent per year to a decline of about 7.5 percent per year.
In Connecticut, there has been a significant drop that reflects the national averages.
In 2008, there were about 23 births for every thousand girls. Over the next five years, those numbers continued to decline. In 2013, there were just under 13 births for every thousand girls.
While reality television may be one of the factors in the drop, experts said it may not resonate with everyone.
“Our teens here in Hartford, many have said that they feel like it's not a real depiction of them. They have a difficult time connecting to what's happening in those shows because it’s not representative of a real diverse population,” Chaparro said, adding that she credits the drop in teen pregnancy to the availability of contraception, education, and making sure local clinics are open and available for teens to visit.
“I think the more work we do around normalizing the health conversation in general in our school settings, the better off we are,” Chaparro said.
For more from the Hartford Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, click here.
For more from Advocates for Youth, click here.
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