Sunday, November 02, 2008

Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant?

Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant? That's the provocative question Margaret Talbot tries to answer, in one of the most poignant articles I have read this year in the New Yorker. She writes:

Social liberals in the country’s “blue states” tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter’s pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in “red states” generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn’t choose to have an abortion.

It's an interesting dichotomy. And one that also hits home for millions of families in America. Using data from Mark Regnerus's book "Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers," she shows that "religion is a good indicator of attitudes towards sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior." The vast majority of white evangelical adolescents (74%) say that they believe in abstaining from sex before marriage. However, that group begins having sex earlier than any other except one (black Protestants), and are significantly less likely than other groups to use contraception.

Talbot looks into why, if obviously the biological drive is the same in adolescents across groups, things are so much different in evangelical circles. The article, and Regnerus's book, is well worth reading for the findings. Contributing factors include unhealthy a lot of unhealthy information about sex including feelings that the sex drive is evil, fear that having protection on-hand will send the wrong message, information from the abstinence movement that says condoms wont actually protect you from pregnancy or STDs.

Deterrants for teen-age pregnancy include an observant religious life (not just going to chuch, but praying at home, etc.), a home life in-which both biological parents live, teenagers who have a sense that their parents listen to them and engage in activities with them, teenagers who have a sense of goals (college, a career, a family), and using logic and reasoning to solve problems rather than just emmotion.

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