Growing up with 16 and Pregnant

Photo by MTV

Photo by MTV

Essence Tolver, Reporter

I’ve had a love hate relationship with the show 16 & Pregnant for years. When it first aired I was always the first one on the couch every Thursday with my chips in one hand and my drink in the other. I was the biggest fan of this show way back when it was just Maci, Farrah, Amber, Ebony, Whitney, and Catelynn.

Those were the “original” teen moms. Soon after the girls agreed to do a spin off show and that’s how I kept up with their lives and the babies. When season two aired, I watched, but I wasn’t there at seven waiting hyped like I was the first season.

As I got older, my love for this show somewhat diminished. But I’m not the only one who is uninterested. Many argue that the show shouldn’t air–not because it’s boring–but because it creates problems.

“I think they should get rid of the show because now it is just being repetitive and making it seem like they are glamorizing teen pregnancy, and it makes it seem like people are just doing it to get famous,” senior Maritza Lopez stated. That’s the question here.

Do shows like 16 & Pregnant encourage or discourage teens from getting pregnant?  When I was just that 11-year-old fan watching for entertainment, I never thought of things like this. I didn’t even know what sex was let alone that you could get pregnant if you had sex.

Photo by MTV
Photo by MTV

All I knew was I better not have watched the show around my parents. Every time I were to get caught watching it, my mom would tell me to turn it off and spend my time watching something else.

But I had to watch: it was the topic of discussion in fifth grade at the lunch table. Now I see why my mom always told me to turn it off. But I also see how very wrong my mom was.  I was actually learning from this show.

Studies have shown that since 2009, when the show 16 and Pregnant first aired, there was a 5.7% reduction in teen births in the 18 months after its premiere on TV. Now the real question is, was this just a coincidence or did this show really have an impact on teens?   

“16 & Pregnant has taught me that you should be careful of the decision that you make in high school because it can be life lasting,” Lopez stated.

But we’ve been told all of our lives that there are consequence for our actions. So what difference does a show make? A huge difference one according to a 2014 study summarized by CNN in this way:

[The study] recorded spikes in Google searches and Twitter mentions about the show when new episodes aired and looked specifically for searches on terms such as “birth control” and “abortion” alongside those spikes.

They then analyzed geographic data to see whether locations with higher search activity and tweets about “16 and Pregnant” showed higher levels of searches and tweets about birth control and abortion.

They did.    


The researchers also looked to see whether high viewership in certain areas corresponded with a bigger drop in teen births.

It did.

“The results of our analysis indicate that exposure to ‘16 and Pregnant’ was high and that it had an influence on teens’ thinking regarding birth control and abortion,” the researchers write.

Since the show first aired more than 20,000 pregnancies a year have been avoided. This doesn’t mean the show actually caused the pregnancy rate to go down but the study suggests it helped create a multiple year trend of declining teen pregnancies.