Well Duh! As If We Didn't Already Know

Friday, September 18, 2009
Anti-teenage pregnancy IIImage by Polina Sergeeva via Flickr
NYT parenting blogger Lisa Belkin writes about the correlation between teen pregnancy and religion. In her post she cites a recent Reproductive Health Journal study by Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh and the results are nothing less than surprising, that is, if you are religious. 

As most atheists and other people of reason have known for a long time religion has a significant impact on teen pregnancy and generally in a negative way. As the father of a 14 year-old daughter (15 in two weeks) I have striven to make sex an open topic in our house. While we do not have explicit conversations, my wife usually has those with our daughter, I nevertheless know my daughters thoughts on the subject and I know that she will make an appropriate choice when the time right.

Religion’s Link to Teen Pregnancy

A report this week in the journal Reproductive Health describes what researchers call “a strong association” between the teenage birth rate of a particular state and its “level of religiosity.”
The correlation is not what you might expect. The more religious the state, the higher the rates of teen pregnancy.
Joseph Strayhorn, an adjunct faculty member with Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh, and Jillian Strayhorn reached their conclusions by analyzing data from the Pew Forum’s US Religious Landscapes Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first asks respondents to agree or disagree with such statements as ‘There is only one way to interpret the teachings of my religion’ or ‘Scripture should be taken literally, word for word’. The second tracks the rate of teen pregnancy in every state from year to year.
How to explain the disconnect? It could be that more religious teens are having sex than less religious teens, hence more of them become pregnant. It could also be that the percentage of teens who become pregnant in each state is similar, but the percentage who terminate in the less religious states is higher, leading to more reported pregnancies and births (although the authors did take some steps to adjust for that.) Or it could be, Strayhorn suggests, “that religious communities in the US are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself”.
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