Abstinence is becoming socially acceptable for some younger teens.
Birth rates among American teenagers has fallen to an all-time low, and researchers are saying at least one of the major contributors to the drop is that younger teens are seeing abstinence as an acceptable option in their lives.
An analysis from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), released Thursday and cited in the Washington Post, said the decline in birth rates among teens has fallen in all regions across the country and among all races. But the largest declines have been among Hispanic and black teens, whose rate has dropped almost 50 percent since 2006.
Obviously, the fact that teens now have better access to contraception, including more options and easier to use options, is probably the most significant reason for the down-swing, but the researchers say the likely second most significant reason is somewhat surprising. Despite film and TV portrayals of frequent sex, younger teens are choosing to delay having sex until later in life, and that lifestyle choice has become more acceptable to them.
At least according to Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “There has been a change in social norms that has happened in the past 20 years, and the idea of not having sex or delaying sex is now something that can be okay,” offered Albert.
Meanwhile, calling the trend “very healthy,” Veronica Gomez-Lobo, who is director of pediatric gynecology at Children’s National Medical Center, said the movement towards abstinence has been mostly among the younger teens. She adds she believes the peer pressure is now working in the opposite direction that it may have in the past.
The teen birth rate in the United States peaked in 1991, recording 61.8 births per 1,000, but has declined steadily since, reaching a low of 24.2 per 1,000 in 2014. Still, taxpayers are on the hook for an estimated $9 billion per year, despite the improvement. President Obama launched a $110 million initiative in 2010 to validate prevention programs across the country.
The CDC didn’t mention abortion in its report, but independent research shows that teen pregnancies have also been dropping for the last 40 years, and the rates of abortion in all states except Vermont declined in 2011 from the previous year, the last comprehensive data set that is available.