The report is a reason to cheer but not to think the problem is solved, said one expert not involved in the study. The new finding "underscores the remarkable progress this nation has made," said Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.
For instance, the teen birth rate in Japan is 4.9 per 1,000, according to United Nations data from 2009 to 2010. In the Netherlands, it‘s 5.3 -- about six times lower than in the United States.
Albert believes many factors explain the decline in teen birth rates. "These rates have been driven down by the magic combination of less sex and more contraception," Albert said. More teens are delaying sex, he said, persuaded by sex education or parents, and more are using birth control.
The peer effect plays a role, he said. When teens hear that their friends are delaying sex or using birth control, it influences them.
Then there is the "MTV effect." Programs that depict teen moms show the difficulties of pregnancy and parenthood, Albert said.
"They really do show the challenges of early pregnancy and parenthood," he said. His organization has commissioned surveys to ask teens what they think of these shows. "The overwhelming majority say these shows are sobering, not salacious," he said.
Efforts to reduce teen births must continue, Albert said, or rates will surely go up again.
To take the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Quiz, go to the National Organization to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
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