Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2007

Teen birth rate falls to lowest level in decade

August 19, 2007


— The number of teenagers having babies has declined sharply in the past several years nationally, recently released statistics show.

The national birth rate for 15- to 19-year-olds reached its lowest level in more than a decade in 2005, according to a report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics released last month.

Experts say less support of teen childbirth in society and increased awareness of the risks of unprotected sex have encouraged teens to wait longer to have sex and to use contraception when they do decide to start.

"The good news is that teenagers are learning," said David Landry, senior research associate for the Guttmacher Institute, an independent nonprofit organization that focuses on reproductive health. "One, they're having sex at a later age ... and two, they're more likely to use contraception when they do have sex."

From 1995 to 2002, 23 percent of the decline in teen birth rates for 15- to 17-year-olds was because of delays in sexual activity, according to a 2006 report from Columbia University and the Guttmacher Institute. Increased and improved contraception use accounted for 86 percent of the decline among 15- to 19-year-olds, the report said.

The study analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A variety of contraceptive methods and an increase in campaigns to prevent teen pregnancy are two reasons adolescents may be paying more attention, Landry said.

"Many of those methods didn't even exist 10 years ago," Landry said.


nrfc 10 years, 9 months ago

Increased and improved contraception use accounted for 86 percent of the decline among 15- to 19-year-olds, the report said.

I believe this study is written in a way that causes confusion - having analyzed it, I believe that this 86% decline attributed to contraceptive use is among those who have ever had sex, not all teens. Now, I could be entirely wrong, here, but let me share my understanding of why this study is problematic.

The total impact of abstinence on teen pregnancy cannot be measured by only measuring it among those who have ever had sex, yet this study attempts to do so. This figure doesn't tell the whole picture regarding the impact of abstinence on pregnancy rates, but only a part of the story.

The study does mention the reduction in sexually experienced teens (that is, ever had vaginal sex), but I don't believe it actually included those figures in the formulas that resulted in figures of 86%.

This has been the source of much confusion, resulting in news stories reporting that 'Increased and improved contraception use accounted for 86 percent of the decline among 15- to 19-year-olds" when apparently this the 86 percent figure only accounts for the decline among those who ever had sex including those who are currently sexually active, and not all teens.

Essentially, the study only analyzes sexually active teens who "quit" having sex and those that still have sex and the status of recent contraceptive use. It does not, in its formulas, calculate teens who have abstained from first sex altogether.

There are several concerns I have about this study:

  1. The data seems to include both married and unmarried women.

  2. The study only measured recent (within 3 months of the survey) sexual activity instead of measuring both a lack of sexual experience (ever having vaginal sex) and recent sexual activity, as did prior studies on this subject.

  3. The impact of abstinence was only measured for those who had ever had sexual intercourse and had abstained at least 3 months prior to the survey, instead of for all teens (including those who have never had vaginal intercourse)..

4, The overall impact of abstinence on pregnancy cannot be measured by only measuring abstinence among the sexually experienced.

  1. Only two central measures were used to derive this figure of 86%: recent sexual activity and contraceptive use at most recent intercourse, and the measure of abstinence from first sex (vaginal intercourse) was excluded.

  2. The study drew a causal conclusion based upon mixed and what I consider to be incomplete data regarding abstinence (total number of teens abstaining from first sex and recent sex).

The study can be found at:

Ruben Obregon, President, The No Room for Contraception Campaign

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