TV and teen pregnancy

By • Published: June 28th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Ever wonder if your daughter gets any positive messages from all those teenage dramas she watches on television? A new study published in the journal Human Communication Research shows these kinds of programs seem to communicate health messages more effectively than shows with a TV news format.

Three-hundred-fifty-three undergraduate students participated in a study where they watched one of two TV programs about the burden of unwanted teen pregnancy. Most were women. Half watched an episode of the popular show “The OC.” The others viewed a program with a TV news format.

Participants filled out questionnaires before and immediately after viewing the programs, then again two weeks later. The questionnaires measured the teens’ attitudes toward birth control and whether they used it, as well as their level of emotional involvement in the TV show they watched during the study.

Those who watched the dramatic program said they identified more with the characters on the show. The females in this group also showed more favorable attitudes toward birth control use. Researchers said because the drama fostered a greater emotional connection with viewers, it made “The OC’s” message about birth control more effective.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that birth rates among fifteen- to nineteen-year-old women rose in 2006, the first time since 1990. Almost forty-two in every one-thousand women this age had babies, most unintentionally.

Meanwhile, statistics show teenage moms are more likely to quit high school and to be long-term single parents.

Want to get teens to tune in to health information? Consider that what they hear… and heed… might depend on what they watch.