MSNBC Article Addresses ‘True Cost of Teen Pregnancy’

For the past year, MSNBC’s “Elkhart Project” has been providing viewers and readers with a personal look at the impact of the economic downturn as experienced by the citizens of Elkhart, Indiana.

In the project’s latest article, MSNBC reporter Kari Huus wrote about the challenges facing 19-year-old Nate Howell and his pregnant girlfriend, 17-year-old Samantha Keith:

Now, facing parenthood, he and Samantha are in a tough spot — one that tends to come with a high price. Research shows that people who have children in their teens are less likely to get a high school diploma or go on to college. They tend to earn less in the working world, and children born to these teens struggle to keep up with their peers. For many, beating back poverty becomes the overriding concern.

“The data is overwhelming that teen pregnancy has a negative impact on education and employment,” says James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.,-based nonprofit. “While that is a problem during any economic cycle, it becomes even more of a negative during a recession.”

After declining for 15 years, the teen pregnancy rate is now on the rise in the United States, which has by far the highest rate in the industrialized world.

Gay Teens More Likely to be Bullied

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers are less likely to bully other children but two or three times more likely to be the victims of bullying, according to a new study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Elise Berlan and her colleagues studied the relationship between sexual orientation and bullying by using data from the Growing Up Today Study of more than 7,500 adolescents.

“Students, parents, schools, and community organizations can work to create environments that are supportive and accepting of all students, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Dr. Berlan, a professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

The study appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Teens’ Lives Improve When Parents Set Limits

A series of new studies done within the past year showed that good things happen when parents set limits on their teenagers’ behavior, according to a report in USA Today.

For example, the average teen spends seven hours 38 minutes in front of television and computer screens. However, teens whose parents set limits on Internet and TV watching spend three hours less. Teens whose parents set limits for bed time sleep more hours.
Teens whose parents set limits on driving are more likely to wear seat belts and less likely to get into accidents.
They are also less likely to drink, text, or talk on cell phones when they drive.
They are more likely to delay sex, get better grades, and avoid cigarette smoking.

“The reality is that teenagers care deeply what their parents think,” said Kenneth Ginsburg, author of the driving study and a specialist in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. “The challenge for parents is to get across boundaries in a way that does not feel controlling.”

Adolescent Risk Factors Can Predict Adult Alcoholism

Researchers in Finland set out to identify which socioeconomic, family, personal and lifestyle risk factors in the teenage years predict adult alcoholism. They surveyed more than 1,400 16-year-olds, and then followed up with more surveys when the participants were 32 years old.

Among the boys, the strongest predictors of excessive alcohol use in adulthood included parental divorce, depression, leisure time spent daily among friends, and drunkenness-orientated behavior.
Among girls, the adolescent predictors of excessive alcohol use in adulthood were drunkenness-orientated drinking and frequent smoking.
Other factors that predicted excessive use of alcohol in adulthood, were parental social class, school performance, low self-esteem, impulsiveness, poor relationships with parents, poor parental trust, health behavior, dating, and problems with the law.

Writing in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, the Helsinki team reported, “early interventions for adolescent substance use and a set of specific psychosocial risk factors should be tailored and evaluated as methods for identifying those at high risk of and preventing excessive alcohol use in adulthood.”

In addition to predicting later-life difficulties, adolescent and teen alcohol abuse can also cause myriad problems in the present, including poor academic performance, health concerns and strained relations with peers and family members.

Depression During Pregnancy Linked to Antisocial Behaviors Among Teens

If a teenager’s mother was depressed when she was pregnant, her child is at increased risk for antisocial behavior, according to a new study in the journal Child Development.

Researchers studied 120 low income children and their mothers from the inner city.
They interviewed the mother is when they were pregnant, after giving birth, and when their children were four, 11, and 16 years old.
If the mother was depressed when she was pregnant, her child was four times more likely to be violent and exhibit antisocial behaviors at age 16.

“Although it is not clear why depression and pregnancy might set an adolescent on a pathway toward increased antisocial behavior, our findings suggest that women with a history of conduct problems who become depressed in pregnancy may be in special need of support,” according to Cardiff University professor Dale Hay, the lead author of the study.