I may be a little bit late to this party, but Teen Mom was a crazy show. It really did well in showing how awesome it was to be an unwed teenage mother in rural parts of our wonderful country. One of the girls from the original Teen Mom is doing porn now, so it just goes to show even the brightest of dreams eventually will sadly and unceremoniously fizzle into dust.
If you’re like me, shows like Teen Mom and 16&Pregnant are super annoying. Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic television, but it also left me extremely cynical. “I can’t believe MTV is degrading itself like this,” I would say, clearly unaware of just how ironic the statement truly is after I realized TRL was it’s longest running program.
“How could anyone take this seriously,” I went on to say. “All this is gonna do is make girls want to get pregnant,” I screamed to the heavens.
That, I thought, would’ve been the collateral damage from Teen Mom. You see, a show like that would glamorize teenage pregnancy. It took four teenage girls, gave them an hour long show every week, and made them famous. It seemed like any teenage girl could wind up pregnant and get on that show.
“Surely,” I thought, “teenage pregnancy rates are about to skyrocket.”
Fortunately, the folks over at the US Department of Health and Human Services had my back in my rhetorical conundrum. Last year, there were 26.6 births per 1000 adolescent females. That probably seems like a lot. And it is. The United States has the highest teen birth rate in the world, among developed countries. For comparison, our number is twice as many as Canada, and ten times as many as Switzerland, presumably because it’s too cold. However, last year’s birth rate is down 10 percent from 2012, and the teenage birth rate has been dropping steadily at a continuous pace nearly every year since 1991, when the birth rate was 61.8 births per 1000 young ladies.
In fact, Melissa Kearney, a professor at the University of Maryland, claims Teen Mom actually lowered the birth rate even further. Kearney claimed internet searches after episodes of Teen Mom concluded saw a spike in search inquiries involving birth control pills. This demonstrates the girls viewing this program not only didn’t want to be on this show, but were actively seeking preventive measures to ensure they didn’t become teenage mothers.
As you can see, this information is quite contrary to earlier speculation. How on earth did this show, a show which glamorized the life of a teenage mother, manage to decrease the teenage birth rate?
Well, that answer lies in the prose. The storytelling structure of Teen Mom never relayed messages of “hey, don’t do this” or “hey, totally do this.” The show really focused more on the emotional toll having a child took on these girls. It became entirely possible the girls watching Teen Mom didn’t have star-studded dreams of silver screen fame, a life of leisure, and a 19-year old boyfriend with way too many Fox Racing t-shirts; they just really enjoyed seeing drama.
Think of Teen Mom like Laguna Beach. No one really cared that LC had this cute, new, little thing in her life that she didn’t really plan for (Stephen). They really just liked seeing her fight with Kristen. Teen Mom viewers didn’t really care about the possibility of being one accident away from fame, they just enjoyed seeing some abusive brute beat up her boyfriend every week on national television, which in turn made them say, “geez, I think accidentally getting pregnant after the homecoming dance may be the last thing I’m interested in”, leading to an increase in birth control inquiries.
I’m not a scientist. Not yet. I’m just a guy who likes reading into things. I’m sure anyone reading this had some similarly cynical thoughts when you watched Teen Mom. Just know, that awful exploitative television show helped advance the decline of an issue that’s still a problem in this country.