The reality behind ‘teen pregnancy’ 

In
the case of the middle-schoolers the article discusses, fathers in
births to girls age 15 and younger are far more likely to be over age 21
than under age 16. Several studies have found girls who had sex at 15
or younger were very likely to have been raped, usually by a
substantially older man, and that school-age mothers are much more
likely to be poor and to have been sexually victimized in childhood.

Of
course, those are good reasons to support factual sex education so that
young people can have access to information and resources to protect
themselves.

But depicting sex ed as the key strategy to
prevent “teen pregnancy” obscures far more important factors we should
be paying more attention to: adult sexual behaviors, domestic violence
against children and youth, poverty rates and access to higher
education.

The best long-term economic studies show
that for poorer populations, having babies at younger ages makes
economic sense (parents are freed to work by their early 30s, when
earning potential is highest) and maximizes the use of extended families
to raise children.

Two counties have strikingly low
rates of births by teens and young adults of every race: Cleveland and
Payne. Take a moment to ponder what feature of those two counties might
explain that fact.

Over the last 20 years, pregnancy,
birth and marriage rates among younger women have plummeted to record
lows. These trends correspond to rapid increases in enrollments of young
women, particularly minorities, in colleges, universities and
vocational schools, despite relentless efforts to make higher education
as costly as possible.

Endlessly debating
sex-vs.-abstinence programs, blaming popular culture and depicting
teenagers as stupid may satisfy many adult interests, but it’s time to
move on to tougher realities. Abolishing the deceptive term “teen
pregnancy” would be a good start.

—Mike Males, Oklahoma City

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