By Paige Whipple of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
Are some people overly critical of teen parents? Kailyn from Teen Mom 2 certainly thinks so.
“I’m already judged times 10 because I’m a teen mom!” she said on this week's episode of MTV's long-running show.
The 24-year-old has a point: Some folks assume that young mothers are irresponsible and don’t take care of their kids, but that certainly isn’t the case. Here are the top five myths about teen moms that just aren’t true:
Myth #1: Teens who get pregnant are sleeping around.
Truth: Getting pregnant has nothing to do with how many partners you have — it has to do with how carefully and consistently you use birth control. Many teens think you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex, and that is totally false -- you can get pregnant any time you have sex if you aren’t using birth control. Remember: If you aren’t actively trying to prevent a pregnancy, it will probably happen.
Myth #2: Teen moms don't love their kids.
Truth: Nearly all teen mothers say they wish they had waited longer to have a child but wouldn't trade parenthood for anything.
Myth #3: More teen girls are getting pregnant than ever before.
Truth: While about one in four girls in the U.S. still get pregnant before age 20, teen pregnancy rates have dropped more than 50% in the past 20 years (woo hoo!), and teen births are also at historic lows. The reason for the decline? Research has shown that shows like 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom have helped. There's more good news: Not only are teen pregnancies and births down, but teens on average are waiting longer to have sex, and half of high school students aren’t doing it at all. That said, the teen birth rate is still a lot higher than every other developed country: Teens in the U.S. have twice as many pregnancies as teens in Canada, and the birth rate in the U.S. is 10 times higher than it is in Japan. Clearly, we still have a lot of work to do.
Myth #4: All teen moms have their parents pay for everything.
Truth: Many teen parents are working two or three jobs to make ends meet, and because 62% of young teen moms don’t graduate from high school, it makes having a career and supporting a family even harder. In fact, many need public assistance (like food stamps) along the way. Young parents are forced to grow up quick, and that includes getting a job, paying the bills and taking care of a child.
Myth #5: Teen pregnancy is an inner-city issue.
Truth: The teen birth rate is nearly one-third higher in rural America than in cities and suburbs. Rural counties (think small towns like those in South Dakota or West Virginia) account for one in five teen births in the U.S. even though they only make up 16% of the overall teen population. Chelsea once said that there was nothing to do in her town but have sex — and sure enough, teens in rural areas are more likely to have had sex, plus they're less likely to have used contraception which results in more pregnancies.