Jay's World of Abstracts 00029
With One Voice 2002
America's Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
[Standard disclaimer: The nature of abstracts are that they
are pieces of something larger. Not everyone is going to be happy with
my choice of abstracts from any larger work, so if you are
dissatisfied, I would refer you to the original document, which should
be able to be found on the Internet. I encourage others to make their
own abstracts to satisfy their needs. I would be happy to publish them
The abstract here is a summary of a yearly survey of Americans
about teen pregnancy. The results of this survey are often the basis of
the perceptions of many experts in the field, which makes it a powerful
document in shaping how our culture thinks the problem might be
Are you ready to get your attitudes shaped?
I produced this abstract using time paid for by the Quay
County Maternal Child and Community Health Council with funds from the
New Mexico Department of Health.
- Adults and teens believe that teens should receive
strong abstinence message. Nearly all of those
surveyed (94% of adults and 93% of teens —
essentially unchanged from last year) believe it is
important that teens be given a strong message
from society that they should abstain from sex until
they are at least out of high school.
- “Abstinence-first” yes.
“Abstinence-only” no. Support
for a strong abstinence message for teens does
not mean Americans support an “abstinence-only”
message for teens. Most American adults and teens
share the common sense view that abstinence is the
first and best option for teens but also strongly
believe that teens should be given information
about contraception. Some 66% of adults and 56%
of teens believe teens should not be sexually active
but those who are should have access to birth control.
While the majority of Americans support this
middle-ground position, the survey also reveals that
there is more support this year than last year for the
idea that teens should not be sexually active and
should not have access to birth control (15% of
adults supported this position in 2001, 23% support
it this year) and less support of the position
that it’s okay for teens to be sexually active, as long
as they have access to birth control (12% of adultssupported this
position in 2001, only 9% say they
support it this year).
- Americans want more of both, not either/or.
survey this year also reveals that substantial majorities
of adults (76%) and teens (64%) think that
teens should get more information about abstinence
and birth control rather than just one or the
other. When asked what advice they would offer
policymakers regarding teen pregnancy, a significant
majority of adults (63%) and teens (68%) say
they would place greater emphasis on encouraging
teens not to have sex and greater emphasis on birth
control (also, essentially unchanged from last year).
- Americans reject the “mixed
Some argue that stressing abstinence to teens while
also providing them with information about contraception
sends teens a confusing, mixed message.
Adults (66%) and teens (72%) disagree, calling
such a message “clear and specific” (nearly
from last year’s survey).
- Sexually experienced teens wish they had waited.
Most teens who have had sex (63%) wish they had
waited longer. Fully 70% of sexually experienced
teen girls and 55% of sexually experienced teen
guys report they wish they had waited longer to
- Teens in general express cautious attitudes toward
early and casual sex. Most teens (82%) believe that
sex should only occur in a long-term, committed
relationship. This is true for boys (81%) as well as
girls (84%). Only 19% of teens think it’s all right to
have sex if two people have known each other for a
short time. And 33% of adults and 28% of teens
also say they have become more opposed to teens
having sex over the past several years.
- Parents continue to underestimate their influence.
There continues to be a “parent-gap”when it comes
to teens’ decisions about sex. When asked who
influences teens’ decisions about sex the most, more
adults cited teenagers’ friends (30%) than any other
source. Only 8% of teens, however, say friends are
most influential. Younger teens (aged 12-14), in
particular, cite parents as the most influential by a
wide margin (31% cite parents as most influential,
while only 8% say friends are most influential).
- Parents matter. Nearly seven out of ten
also agree that it would be much easier for them to
postpone sexual activity and avoid teen pregnancy
if they were able to have more open, honest conversations
about these topics with their parents. And
one out of four teen girls say their parents have discussed
sex, love, and relationships with them “not
- Morals, values, and religious beliefs are also
Teens say morals, values, and/or religious
beliefs influence their decisions about sex more
than any of the other options offered by the question
(parents, friends, the media, teachers and sex
educators, and worries about pregnancy and sexually
- Many teens are not getting the message that teen
pregnancy is wrong. The percentage of adults who
believe that young people are getting a clear message
that teen pregnancy is wrong declined dramatically
between 2001 and 2002 (from 63% to 48%).
For their part, fully 16% of teens say they are not
getting a clear message that teen pregnancy is
wrong and an additional 25 percent of teens seem
to be uncertain about the message they are getting.
- Many teens still believe “it
won’t happen to me.”
Our survey makes clear that many teens simply
have not made teen pregnancy an issue of personal
concern. Over half of all teens we surveyed (54%)
said they have never really thought about what their
life would be like if they got pregnant or got someone
pregnant. Perhaps not surprisingly, far more
girls than boys have thought about becoming pregnant
or causing a pregnancy as a teen.
- Many young people are ambivalent about how
they’d feel about getting pregnant or getting someone
pregnant. Twenty-one percent of teens say they
are either not determined or only somewhat determined
to avoid getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy
as a teen. This finding is particularly
troublesome in light of research indicating that if
young people are at all ambivalent about the importance
of avoiding pregnancy, the risk of actually
becoming pregnant is quite high.
- Americans to the media: Show consequences.
While most adults (57%) and teens (72%) believe
that there has been more attention to teen pregnan-cy prevention in the
news and entertainment media
in the past few years, the overwhelming majority of
adults (88%) and teens (83%) wish the entertainment
media more often presented the consequences
of sex, including teen pregnancy.
- Marriage should be discussed.
of adults (86%) and teens (84%) believe that
teen pregnancy prevention programs should teach
young people to be married before having children.
- Positive peer influence. Nine out of ten
say it would be a lot easier for teens to delay sex if
other teens spoke positively about not having sex.
- It’s different for guys.
Although teen boys and girls
generally express similar feelings and beliefs about
teen pregnancy and related issues, our survey
reveals several pronounced differences. For
instance, five out of ten teen boys (51%) say they
often receive the message that sex and pregnancy
are “not a big deal.” Teen boys are also more
than teen girls to say that it is embarrassing for
teens to admit they are virgins.