MTV’s 16 and Pregnant: Glamourizing or Cautioning Teens Against Teen Pregnancy?

by hcoms1 on February 17, 2014 - 9:13pm

In a recent article in TIME magazine, Docktorman (2014) analyzes two different surveys with contradicting conclusions regarding the effect that MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom have had on teen pregnancy throughout the nation. One study, introduced in the New York Times, concluded that 16 and Pregnant has lead to a decrease in teen births by nearly six percent in 2010, as current rates are at a historic low of 34.3 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. A different study lead by researchers at Indiana University, however, claims that the show has an opposite effect on teenage viewers. University researchers stated that 16 and Pregnant along with the spin-off series Teen Mom has lead viewers to believe that these young mothers featured on a weekly reality television show have an enviable way of life. These opposing findings lead Docktorman to question, which study is correct? Are these MTV shows glamorizing the life of teen mothers, leading viewers to believe that getting pregnant while in high school isn’t such a bad idea? Or, are the shows warning the nearly two million weekly viewers about the struggles of young motherhood? Docktorman continues to point out how difficult it truly is to determine the extent to which media influences teen behavior. Though correlations exist between 16 and Pregnant airing and rates of teen pregnancy, a definite causation for pregnancy rates can never be determined. Instead, a third study published in Sexuality & Culture featured in the article poses an interesting point, finding that girl’s sexual choices have much more to do with their family and sex education background than 16 and Pregnant ever did. Docktorman concludes stating that we can’t depend on MTV to determine how our teens feel regarding teen pregnancy, so regardless of study results, what kids hear at home and school is the most important thing we can control.

Docktorman begins the article with a clear purpose and question she wants to answer about the effects these MTV shows have on teens. As the article continues, however, we find that the question of how 16 and Pregnant affects teen pregnancy requires a much more complicated answer than a simple black and white response. Evidence is clear within the studies cited about how teen pregnancy rates have been decreasing since 16 and Pregnant has aired, but many more factors than just watching an hour-long television show once a week influence how teens behave. One concept that was not completely clear in the article was what exactly encompasses teen pregnancy. The terms teen pregnancy and teen births were used quite interchangeably throughout the article, yet the words “pregnancy” and “birth” themselves have completely different meanings. We cannot make the assumption that teenage pregnancy naturally leads to teen birth; if we judged the studies simply on teen births, that could be a significantly lower number than the amount of teen pregnancies in a given year. I simply counting teenage births in studies, many girls who became pregnant may not be included in the research if they lost their child through miscarriage or abortion. Considering teen pregnancies, however, would include all the teenage girls who had unprotected sex and ended up pregnant, regardless if they carried the child to term or not. Because the discrepancy between teen birth and pregnancy is not entirely clear, it is nearly impossible to determine how large an impact the shows have had in encouraging teens to practice safe sex and avoid pregnancy all together. To fully understand the implications of the studies noted in the article, the concept of teen pregnancy versus teen birth must be more clearly defined. Though millions tune into 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom on a weekly basis, we may never know the true affect it has on our nation’s teens.

Dockterman, E. (2014, January 14). Does 16 and Pregnant prevent or promote teen pregnancy? Time.com, 1. 

http://healthland.time.com/2014/01/13/does-16-and-pregnant-prevent-or-promote-teen-pregnancy/

Comments

This article raises a very good question. I believe that the initial idea behind the show 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom was to raise awareness about teen pregnancy and the struggles that it can bring into a young teens life. Unfortunately I also believe that it was not successful in completing this task and basically began to glamorize the life of a young teenage mother. MTV began treating these teenage moms as celebrities and making their live more like a movie star rather than just showing the life of a struggling teenage mother.
My views of these shows are influenced by the community that I am from and the people that I grew up with. I am from a small town and I graduated from high school with a small class and a significant amount of young girls that I graduated with ended up pregnant before they graduated high school or close after graduation. I am not saying that the fact that a majority of those girls tuned into 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom is the reason for that, but it seems a little broad for a coincidence. I also think that the shows do not portray a real image of how teen pregnancy really affects the mother’s life. Many of the young teens that became pregnant were close friends of mine and I have witnessed first-hand how their lives have been affected by having a child. I do agree that more studies should be done to further investigate how these show impact young teenagers views on teenage pregnancy and becoming a mother at a young age.

I agree from the perspective that the media’s purpose for this show was not to bring awareness of teen pregnancy occurring more often than it should but rather that the media only does air this show for the simple fact that they want views. Teen pregnancy has become and all too common issue in our society, where teenage girls between the age of 15-17 do not finish their high school years due to the fact that they are having a baby without even able to financially take care of themselves. I do not believe that there is a correlation between the show airing and an increase in teenage pregnancy because teenage pregnancy has risen to a great amount even before the show aired. Even more, from watching the show myself I would lean more towards that it could in fact provide a wakeup call for teen girls because they show the struggles financially/emotionally these girls are going through even before the baby is born. There are many different causes for the rise of teen pregnancy when I was in high school, I saw pregnant girls from left to right as if it was the newest trend in fashion. Could your environment have a correlation with teen pregnancy? I believe so.

Media and advertising has become more about getting views and less about the influence it has on viewers. As teen pregnancy continues to rise, prevention and awareness should be enforced in order to educate young women about the consequences of becoming a teen mother. After watching a few episodes of MTV's Teen Mom, I don't believe that it influences girls to get pregnant at a young age. In fact, shows the emotional and financial consequences of taking on such a responsibility at young age.

Media and advertising has become more about getting views and less about the influence it has on viewers. As teen pregnancy continues to rise, prevention and awareness should be enforced in order to educate young women about the consequences of becoming a teen mother. After watching a few episodes of MTV's Teen Mom, I don't believe that it influences girls to get pregnant at a young age. In fact, shows the emotional and financial consequences of taking on such a responsibility at young age.

It is surprising to see that MTV shows such as 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom have been portrayed as shows that have led to decrease in teen birth rates in 2010. Many are of the view that more the sex education classes these shows have helped young women to practice safe sex and avoid teenage pregnancy thereby reducing the number of birth rates by teenagers. Like a two side of a coin, shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom have also led to glamorization of teenage pregnancy. Like you said, teenagers get to believe that getting pregnant during high school is really not a bad idea. Since these shows project teenage moms like celebrities, it’s only causing an influential effect on the teenagers’ minds where girls expect to see who’s got a baby bump. Sarah Brown, the directors of National Campaign to Prevent Teenage pregnancy who runs the Teen Media Project believes when teenagers get ‘heavier sexual media diets’ then they are prone to become sexually active before they reach 16 (NPR, 2008). It is not clear to what extent MTV shows are contributing to reducing teenage pregnancy. But it’s not good when it is leading to intended teenage pregnancy which is definitely a not a good effect.

I feel that the tv show is glamourizing and cautioning the teen mom life style. They show the girls driving their fancy cars and such with the money they make from the show. Also it shows that the financial problems and relationship problems the girls have with their families and the father of the child. Even though the show does show the glamour size, I still feel that the show teaches girls about what teen pregnancy is all about and that its not so fabulous as some think. The media has a strange way of showing the glamorous side, but its still there. The show, I feel, does not condone teen pregnancy but still does not help the cause.