Teen Pregnancy and Sex Education in America: Cause and Effect
Teenage pregnancy is a problem that affects many people. It is not just a
problem to the girl and her family, but it also has a significant impact on society as a
whole. Reducing the number of teen pregnancies would help promote child well-being
and decrease child poverty rates.1 More comprehensive sex education courses would help
teenagers better understand how to protect themselves and, in turn, would help reduce the
number of teen pregnancies in the United States.
Among fully industrialized countries, the United States has the highest rate of
teen pregnancy. The rate of teen pregnancy in the United States is almost ...view middle of the document...
problems, mental retardation, mental illness, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, and hyperactivity.4
Children born to teenagers are also at greater risk of neglect and abuse, do worse in
school, and are less likely to receive adequate health care than children born to women
over 20. Sons of teen mothers are more likely to end up in prison, and daughters of teen
mothers are more likely to become a teen mother themselves.5
In the past few years the topic of sex education has come under great scrutiny and
many changes have been made in the curriculum. Many people feel that a more
comprehensive sex education curriculum would be more effective at reducing the number
of teen pregnancies. However, federal legislation has funded programs that promote
abstinence exclusively.6 Many states are following this lead and turning to abstinencebased
programs. In such programs, teachers must emphasize abstinence in any discussion
of sex. One in four teachers in America are not authorized to teach about contraception7,
and in some school districts teachers must alert a student’s parents if he or she asks about
A 2000 article in Family Planning Perspectives compared the results of a 1988
survey and a 1999 survey of sex education topics. In 1999 abstinence was taught
significantly more than in 1988. In 1988, 91.5 percent of those surveyed reported
5 Not Just Another Single Issue: Teen Pregnancy Prevention’s Link to Other Critical Social Issues. The
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2002 (accessed March 21, 2004)
6 Landry, D. J., Darroch, J. E., & Higgins, J. (2003, November-December). Factors Associated with the
Content of Sex Education in U.S. Public Secondary Schools. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive
Health, 35, 261-269. Retrieved March 23, 2004, from NC Libraries for Virtual Education database.
7 Sex Education: Needs, Programs and Policies. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2003 (accessed
March 23, 2004). http://www.agi-usa.org/presentations/sex_ed.ppt.
teaching birth control methods, compared with only 77.2 percent in 1999.8 The
conclusion: Abstinence is taught more and birth control is taught less. Though the
majority of adults do think that abstinence should be stressed to teenagers, they also think
teenagers should get more information about birth control and have greater access to it.9
Sex education is taught in 93 percent of secondary public...