Teens made pact to get pregnant.
At Gloucester High School in Massachusetts, teens are getting pregnant at an alarmingly high rate. In fact, 17 girls in the school of 1,200 got pregnant this year alone. An article in Time magazine says that nearly half of the girls who are pregnant, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together.
School officials first noticed an unusual number of girls visiting the school nurse for pregnancy tests. Principal Joseph Sullivan says that many reacted to news of their pregnancies with high-fives and baby shower plans. Girls whose tests were negative seemed disappointed by the news. And it was recently discovered that one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless man.
We called Bill Albert, spokesman and chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, to find out just how common this is.
"Although almost nine out of 10 teen pregnancies are still unplanned, there is a significant minority of teens who seek to get pregnant," he says. "However, the pregnancy pact--where girls agree to get pregnant and raise their children together--is a quite new and distressing trend. Just the fact that such a pact exists underscores how ill-prepared these girls really are for motherhood. Any mother in America can tell you how difficult being a mom really is and how it's not something to be entered into lightly. The fact these teens think they will 'raise the babies together' shows you how out of touch with the realities of parenthood they really are."
Albert says news of this 'pregnancy pact' should be a wake-up call to parents...and that it's just the tip of the iceberg. "Two weeks ago, the CDC said that the decline of teen sexual activity and the increase of teen contraceptive use we've seen in the past few years has come to a complete standstill now," he says. "And it was recently announced that the teen birth rate had increased for the first time in 15 years. These statistics may indicate we're moving backwards, and that's what parents should be really alarmed about."
He says all this emphasizes how important it is to discuss relationships, love, sex, pregnancy, and family formation with your kids sooner than later. "This should be the 18-year discussion that never ends," Albert stresses.
Rather than sitting kids down at 14 or 15 and explaining the "birds and the bees" in one long, awkward conversation (which Albert feels isn't effective, anyway), he says parents should start these conversations earlier than they think. "I'm not saying you need to discuss contraceptives with an 8-year-old," he adds, "but that is a good time to start discussing what a good relationship is, and how to respect a boy or a girl."
When it comes to communicating about love and sex with your kids, Albert says it's important to take baby steps and to send small signals over a long period of time. "You would never ignore how a kid does in school from kindergarten to seventh grade, but suddenly come up to him in eighth grade and say, 'You have to take school seriously.' That's a message you send kids over years and years," he says. "Discussions about love, sex, pregnancy, and family formation are really the same way. It's critical to send age-appropriate signals at different times."
When moms do discuss love and sex, are kids even listening? Yes, says Albert. "All the polls and studies that have been done indicate that the people who most influence teens' decisions about love and sex are not their friends, or their boyfriends or girlfriends...it's their parents," he explains. "Teens are yearning for your guidance from you, even if it doesn't seem like they are."
But for the 17 teen moms-to-be at Gloucester High School, it's too late for discussion. And now the school, which even has an on-site daycare center for students' offspring, is at odds over what to do next. The school committee plans to vote later this summer on whether or not to provide contraceptives to students. However, many parents oppose that notion.