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Teen Pregnancy on TV

February 6, 2014

Teen Pregnancy on TV

  1. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, MD, MS

MTV's “16 and Pregnant” didn't increase the likelihood of teen childbearing.

  1. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, MD, MS

Teen pregnancy in the U.S. remains a public health challenge. Economists sought to determine the effect of “16 and Pregnant” (a reality show introduced on MTV in 2009) on adolescent sexual behavior. To examine changes in information-seeking associated with the show, investigators used Nielsen ratings data to capture geographic variation in viewership, as well as data from Google Trends and Twitter on searches and tweets about birth control and abortion. They also evaluated national vital statistics to measure changes in teen birth rates.

Results of this analysis indicated that upticks in searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion coincided closely with the airing of new episodes of “16 and Pregnant” and that regions with higher viewership experienced greater reductions in the rate of teen births during the 18 months following the show's introduction.

Comment

Although it's hard to put much weight on any analysis of teen pregnancy rates that doesn't consider access to or use of contraception, it's reassuring that “16 and Pregnant” does not seem to be increasing the likelihood of teen childbearing.

  • Disclosures for Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, MD, MS at time of publication Grant / research support AHRQ; American Diabetes Association; Department of Health and Human Services–Office of Population Affairs; FDA; Kellogg Foundation; NICHD; Society of Family Planning; VA; Women Veterans Health Editorial boards Contraception

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