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Why Pregnancy Pacts Exist

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The country's leading expert in teen behavior sheds some light on the matter.


The pregnancy pact at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts -- where 17 girls got pregnant this year after making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together -- has moms rattled. How could this happen? Momlogic contributor and psychologist Dr. Lisa Boesky, author of When to Worry: How to Tell If Your Teen Needs Help--And What to Do About It, believes there are five major reasons:

We've hit hard financial times. "With the current economic downtown, teen pregnancy rates are likely to rise," she says. "These girls have limited career options and hope for future. In their minds, pregnancy and parenting will provide a direction and a purpose for these teens."

Pregnancy is "cool." "Not only has the social stigma of teen pregnancy been removed, but also pregnancy is actually being glamorized by young celebrities like Jessica Alba, Jamie Lynn Spears, Ashlee Simpson, and Nicole Richie," Dr. Lisa explains. "The media is showing the 'pregnancy bliss' with none of the negative consequences of the realities of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting."

Pregnancy is "fun." "Teens think of pregnancy as fun," she says. "They see friends getting lots of attention and presents, and watch them dressing their babies up like dolls. Parents, schools, and the media must give them a reality check."

Teens want unconditional love. "Many teens intentionally get pregnant to receive unconditional love from their baby, and nobody is telling them that's ludicrous," Dr. Lisa exclaims. "The ironic part is that having a baby is all about GIVING, not getting." She says teens are in the egocentric developmental phase of "me, me, me," and most are incapable of giving unconditional love anyway.

Teens don't know the realities. "The teenage brain cannot conceptualize the realities of parenting--such as the cost of diapers, food, clothes, and health care, or the enormous time commitment," Dr. Lisa concludes.

When she appeared on The Early Show to discuss pregnancy pacts, she gave moms the following three pointers:
- Send your kids the message that they shouldn't get pregnant in their teenage years, just as you'd tell them not to drink alcohol or do drugs. "There's nothing wrong with saying, 'While you're in school, don't get pregnant,'" she says.
- Don't let your daughters date much older boys, and don't let your sons date much younger girls.
- Above all, stay involved and keep the lines of communication open. "Contrary to popular belief, kids want to talk to you about this stuff," she concludes.

Why do you think the pregnancy pact exists?

next: Soccer Moms from Hell
19 comments so far | Post a comment now
NS June 21, 2008, 8:12 AM

“Don’t let your daughters date older boys”

I don’t get this one. Wouldn’t older boys be more likely to practice safe sex, and more likely to avoid getting a girl pregnant, due to increased maturity and having a lot more to lose?

bch June 21, 2008, 8:22 AM

i know. let’s have more sex education classes in school. that has really helped over the last forty years. we create many of our own problems when we leave the creator of our lives out of our lives.

NA June 21, 2008, 8:35 AM

“The teenage brain cannot conceptualize the realities of parenting … .”

I would argue that there’s not much difference between a teenager’s hold on reality versus that of the average “adult” in America. Our education system is so neglected, that sentence just as well could have been written: “The average American’s brain cannot conceptualize the realities of ______.”

The blank could be filled with many things:
- high credit card balances
- not caring for the environment
- not spending quality time with your children
- the cumulative effects of poor
critical thinking skills on society

Act like an adult and treat your teenager with respect. With strong, responsible families, much of these kind of problems can be avoided.

Anonymous June 21, 2008, 8:37 AM

The problem with “safe sex” is that the whole concept is a lie. “Safer sex” would be a better choice of words. Condoms & adstinence are pretty much the only form of birth control that a young man has at his disposal and many of them are not taught to use condoms correctly. Condoms can be tricky to get on right even for an adult male with experience and many things can cause them to fail… even something as simple as using baby oil or vaseline instead of the more expensive lubricants can cause condom failure. Not to mention the fact that many young men when told by a girl that she is on birth control will usually opt to not use a condom especially if they know the girl is a virgin or just percieve her to be “clean” and so feel safe about not getting a disease.

NA June 21, 2008, 8:42 AM

I think the problems arise when the creators of lives leave the children out of their lives.

Anonymous June 21, 2008, 8:59 AM

right. teaching them about some make-believe man in the sky will prevent teen pregnancy. god is the answer to all our problems.
2 2 = 4 ? …
no 2 2 = GAWD
the fervent religiousity of this country will prove to be it’s downfall, ala iraq and iran and israel and afghanistan and pakistan.. the list goes on.
a christian nation = a dying nation.

JrHagler June 21, 2008, 9:02 AM

Being a father of 2 girls, both are grown now….We had a similar situation 7 years ago when my youngest daughter was in 9th grade.

Tremendous peer pressure was placed against her to have sex. “If you haven’t had sex yet with a boy…then you must be Gay!”
Would be the response from four of her “friends”.

At first, I thought the pressure to have sexual intercourse would come from boys…but I was proven wrong. THE PRESSURE CAME FROM OTHER GIRLS!

The only difference from what I gather from this story is that these girls took it a step further. Actually getting pregnant.
And having a “Pregnancy Pact” is just another form of peer pressure.

Post Script:
My daughter is now a student (a junior) at the University of Minnesota….those 4 girls who pressured her while they were freshmen in high school. All four have gotten pregnant, 3 dropped out of high school, the other one just received her GED.

Anonymous June 21, 2008, 11:08 AM

Anonymous on June 21, 2008 8:59 AM wrote:

right. teaching them about some make-believe man in the sky will prevent teen pregnancy. god is the answer to all our problems.
2 2 = 4 ? …
no 2 2 = GAWD
the fervent religiousity of this country will prove to be it’s downfall, ala iraq and iran and israel and afghanistan and pakistan.. the list goes on.
a christian nation = a dying nation.

Are you saying when our country was born we were already dying? Because this country has always been a Christian nation, and compared to many other countries, is doing very well.

Stephanie June 21, 2008, 11:15 AM

Hey, you, Anonymous!

Keep for yourself the stupid sentence:
A Christian nation = a dying nation.
If you are a non-believer, or you embraced some other faith, this is your choice, live with it!
But do not repeat a stupidity like that to other people!
On the contrary, a true Christian abides some moral norms and does not practice sex until marriage.
And take my advice: learn some grammar. You wrote it’s instead of its; also write Iraq, Iran,… instead of iraq, iran,…!

Deirdre June 21, 2008, 11:46 AM

A recent assessment, widely publicized, indicates approximately 48% of black teenager girls 14-17 years old currently have an STD, and 24% of white teenage girls do, as well. With these statistics it is amazing MORE are not getting pregnant. These kids know a great deal about sex and I am not sure education about the nature and risks of sex activity are the best solution. The schools are not and can not be the solution to EVERYTHING and are not equipped, staffed or funded to do everything. Values start in the home and the most functional values do not come from MTV, World Wrestling Entertainment and the internet.

The answer may not be religion but it certainly involves appreciation and protection of the spiritual dimension of life on this planet. To wit about 6% of our children suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. These are the single cause of preventable mental retardation in this country. (A congressional inquiry indicated the mental health our country are not adequately resourced to deal with this problem. Teachers have been tasked to “make these children whole”, in addition to remedying just about every other psychosocial dysfunction afflicting our children.)

I would suggest that taking personal, familial, social responsibility for one’s own behavior — to include the responsibility to prepare for, provide for, cherish and raise one’s own children, is a spiritual value every individual needs to embrace. There absolutely SHOULD be more personal consequences and sanctions (and not just to the unfortunate babies). (Whereas MTV and WRE are hugely profitable for some, I have questions as to whether they inculcate the values that serve our children and our society well.)

There are huge societial consequences to irresponsible personal behaviors. Without personal responsibility and sound values re-enforced by consequences, this country will certainly continue to suffer, increasingly.

v racer June 21, 2008, 12:34 PM

Hey, you have to remember, this is the state that elects Kennedy and Kerry, and leans towards Obama. Good judgment doesn’t come easy in MA.

Meghan June 21, 2008, 2:16 PM

I agree that the media isn’t helping at all with their glorification of pregnancy. For every Jamie Lynn Spears there is a dozen un-wed teenagers who can’t afford to have babies and take care of them. I saw previews for the new NBC show “Baby Borrowers” and it seems like this show couldn’t have come along at a better time.

Momof3girls June 21, 2008, 2:51 PM

While dating an older boy may seem to be a “safer” option, one has to wonder what an 18 yr old boy could possibly have in common with a younger 14 or 15 yr old girl. It would certainly cause a red flag to come up in my mind. If he is such a great guy why isn’t he with a girl closer to his age? Is something wrong with him? Does he have to step down the age ladder to find a girl who would be interested in him?
In most states if there is more than a 4yr age difference it is illegal until the girl is 16 or 17(depending on the state). The young man needs to realize that even touching a girl under that age in an intimate way is able to charged with a felony, and I’m sure being a registered sex offender for the rest of his life is not a concern in the heat of the moment.
As a mother of 3 daughters it has been my job as the parent to educate my children about moral choices, peer pressure and life skills. I can not rely on the school to reinforce our personal beliefs and unfortunately most churches shy away from controversial topics such as this. Hopefully, as more parents step up and take personal responsibility instead of teaching their children to blame others, America can gain back some of our lost ground and have a future of responsible citizens who will make a difference.

Anon June 21, 2008, 4:44 PM

I must have missed the memo where Jessica Alba at age 27 is deemed too young to have a baby. What moron wrote this article?

Jen June 21, 2008, 5:50 PM

I think we need to be more active in our parenting! We have children left alone with coaches and being molested - where were the parents?
My mother was involved. She was honest in her advice and about her past. She was a teenage mom and was honest about her struggles to me, my sisters, and my friends. It just so happens that my two friends that had uninvolved parents had babies in 9th grade and never finished school. I have a master’s degree and that is mostly possible because I waited until I was mature to make a mature decision. Their parents helped raise their babies who are now graduating high school. I am now able to work from home and raise my little ones my way.
I will repeat to my two little boys one big thing my mother said - “Sex is hereditary, if you parents never had it neither will you so wait don’t rush it.”
But me being a girl she also said that “once you do it, it will always be expected of you and the true you may get overlooked.”

reneejohnson June 21, 2008, 7:39 PM

i do agree with the fact that some teens think it is oh so cool to become pregnant because they dont know the reality of it all.teens dont know just how hard it is to support a baby until after its born.and sometimes not even then depending on the amount of help they have at home.if the parents of the teen mother is supporting the teen and the baby financially then that teen still wont be able to find out just how hard it is to be a parent until they have to do everything on their own.i am not saying that a parent should just abandon their teen daughter because she has become pregnant but at least let them take on some of the responsibility so that they can see that being a parent is not an easy job, and maybe it will prevent them from having another baby to soon again.

Anonymous June 22, 2008, 5:58 PM

It annoys the hell out of me when people bring up the whole “undeveloped brain” thing. For starters, I’ve never seen two people agree on the age that a person’s brain developes. Not all teens are this ridiculous; some do have good judgement, some aren’t egocentric, and SOME know how to take care of themselves rather than screw up their lives.

April June 23, 2008, 10:20 AM

I totally agree with Dr. Lisa. I heard one of the fathers was 24 and the girl was only 16. I can guarantee you that I will not allow my 16-year-old to go out with a 24-year-old under any circumstances. Obviously someone in thier 20s is not going to be on a “high school” level, sexually or otherwise. Also, in terms of Jessica Alba, sure SHE is old enough to have a baby, but teen girls look up to her and when pregnancy is made to be “cool” in the media (nicole, jamie lynn, etc), that makes the teens want to be pregnant, too. No one is saying the celebrities shouldn’t be pregnant, it just shouldn’t be glamorized in the media the way it is.

Anonymous June 23, 2008, 2:54 PM

While there’s plenty of things wrong with the media, I don’t think glorifying pregnancy is the problem. Parents need to actually, you know, talk to their teens about stuff every once in awhile.

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