Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
A new study of the effect of reality TV shows like MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” has found a connection between the shows, which depict the lives of teen mothers, and a “cautionary tale” effect that may actually contribute to lowered teen pregnancy rates. More from The New York Times:
A new economic study of Nielsen television ratings and birth records suggests that the show [17-year-old Kailyn Lowry] appeared in, “16 and Pregnant,” and its spinoffs may have prevented more than 20,000 births to teenage mothers in 2010.
The paper, to be released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, makes the case that the controversial but popular programs reduced the teenage birthrate by nearly 6 percent, contributing to a long-term decline that accelerated during the recession.
“It’s thrilling,” said Sarah S. Brown, the chief executive of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit group in Washington. “People just don’t understand how influential media is in the lives of young people.”
Each episode of “16 and Pregnant” follows a different teenager through her pregnancy, delivery and the first weeks of parenthood. Its “Teen Mom” spinoff series, the latest season of which debuts on Jan. 21, follows up with the mothers and their children. The depiction of both joy and hardship is unflinching, with angry parents, medical complications, lost sleep, financial difficulties and fights with absentee boyfriends.
The two shows are both among MTV’s most watched, with some episodes drawing more than three million viewers, many of them young women. But the shows also have critics who say they glamorize teenage parenthood — especially since many of the mothers have become celebrities as a result of the show.
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Image: Teen taking pregnancy test, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 9th, 2014
Middle- and high-school students who drink alcohol may actually be getting a social payoff for their behavior in the form of a greater number of friends, according to a new study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. Reuters has more:
Previous studies have found friend groups can influence choices about alcohol, but haven’t looked at the possible social payoffs of drinking.
“There has not been much data to support that drinking among teenagers directly leads to higher popularity and more friendships,” said Peter Delany. He is the director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality in Rockville, Maryland.
Delany was not part of the study team, which was led by Mir M. Ali, also from SAMHSA.
“The fact remains that underage drinking is linked to a long list of adverse health and behavioral consequences, including the deaths of thousands of adolescents and young adults each year,” Delany told Reuters Health in an email.
Ali and colleagues analyzed data from a national study of 7th through 12th graders from 132 schools who were surveyed in 1994. The survey included a variety of questions on drinking and substance use, number of friends, friends of friends, home life and other factors.
Teens who reported occasional drinking and getting drunk tended to have higher “social connectedness” than their abstaining peers. That was especially true for white students.
Getting drunk seemed to be more important for popularity than just drinking in general. Kids who drank at all reported having an extra half a friend, on average, and those who got drunk reported one additional friend compared to non-drinkers.
The findings “provide new evidence on the motivation behind adolescent drinking,” the researchers wrote in the journal Addictive Behaviors.
The researchers added that healthy behaviors, like participating in sports, are also linked with better social connectedness.
Image: Teens drinking beer, via Shutterstock
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Monday, January 6th, 2014
Parents who are “strict” in the sense that they set limits for their children are less likely to have teenagers who experiment with cigarette smoking, according to a new study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. More from Reuters:
Researchers surveyed middle schoolers from diverse backgrounds and found those whose parents had an “authoritative” and “structured” parenting style were also more likely to be discouraged from smoking by their parents and less likely to become smokers.
“Many past studies have examined broad parenting styles, however this study looked at how specific parenting strategies may help protect youth from cigarette smoking initiation,” said Cassandra Stanton, an assistant professor in the oncology department at Georgetown University, who led the study.
“We also note that unlike many studies in the area that are conducted in largely white middle class samples, this study was conducted in an urban multi-ethnic low-income school district,” Stanton told Reuters Health.
It’s important to identify ways of helping parents prevent kids from starting to smoke, Stanton’s team writes in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, because the majority of lifetime smokers begin before the age of 18.
Although the number of teenage smokers has declined significantly, one in three young adults reports smoking at least once in the past 30 days, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Surgeon General.
Image: No smoking sign, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 3rd, 2014
Teenagers who watch television or use electronic devices during family meals are more likely to experience problems ranging from poorer nutrition to impaired family communication, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. More from Reuters:
Experts have suggested turning the TV off at mealtime for years. But with the advent of cell phones and other handheld devices, kids can bring all kinds of media with them to the table.
“The findings of this most recent paper showed that mealtime media use is common among families with adolescents but that setting rules around media use at meals may reduce media use among teens and have other positive benefits as well,” lead author Jayne A. Fulkerson told Reuters Health in an email.
Fulkerson is the director of the Center for Child and Family Health Promotion Research at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing in Minneapolis.
“Parents who are having family meals with media could choose to make some rules excluding media at mealtimes to spend more quality time with their children,” she said.
Fulkerson and her colleagues asked more than 1,800 parents how often their adolescent children watched TV, talked on the phone, texted, played games or listened to music with headphones during family meals.
They also asked parents if they set rules on media use at mealtime and whether they felt family meals were important. Children answered questions about how well their families communicated, including how often they talked about problems with their parents.
Two thirds of parents reported that their teens watched TV or movies during family meals at least some of the time. One quarter said the TV was on frequently.
Texting, talking on the phone, listening to music with headphones and using handheld games were less common. Between 18 and 28 percent of parents reported those activities happened at mealtime, according to findings published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Close to three quarters of parents said they set limits on mealtime media use.
Image: Family on cell phones at the dinner table, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
As exasperating as parenting teenagers can be, new research is showing that yelling or shouting at them, or threatening them verbally, can have a negative impact on the teens’ overall mental health. More from Reuters:
“The take home point is that the verbal behaviors matter,” Annette Mahoney, who worked on the study, said. She’s a professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
“It can be easy to overlook that, but our study shows that the verbal hostility is really relevant, particularly for mothers who scream and hit, and for fathers who do either one,” Mahoney told Reuters Health.
All of the kids in her study had been referred to a community clinic due to mental health or behavioral problems.
Their mothers had to be both verbally and physically abusive to increase the kids’ risk for depression and behavior issues. But either kind of behavior alone from a father was sufficient to produce lasting ill effects.
The researchers realize that parents can be trapped in a vicious cycle.
Verbal abuse “has a cyclical nature to it,” said Mahoney. Kids with behavioral or mental health problems can be tough to handle, she said.
Image: Parent and teenager arguing, via Shutterstock
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