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Teen pregnancy, religion and the assumptions we make

September 17, 2009 |  3:25 pm

Newborns Conclusions could be hastily made, but ...

In exploring some of the issues connected to teen pregnancy, researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine in Pennsylvania and at the University of Pittsburgh have analyzed data on births, religious beliefs, income and abortion rates.

They found that those states whose residents expressed more strongly held religious beliefs, termed "religiosity," had higher teen birth rates. This held true even after controlling for income and abortion rate.

The researchers concluded: "One possible explanation for this relationship is that teens in more religious communities may be less likely to use contraception."

The Other McCain blog comments:

"The objective of this study? To convince college-educated middle-class people that religious faith is the No. 1 force for evil in the modern world. "OMG! If we let our daughter go to church, kiss Vassar good-bye!"

And Blogging Blue says:

"Not too surprising, the researchers postulate that more religious states are better at discouraging contraception (abstinence training anyone?) then they are at impacting teenage sexual practices.  Alabama, rated 12th in teenage pregnancy and 2nd in religiousness, should really re-consider their ban on the public sale of  sex toys."

For their part, the researchers stress that the findings don't point fingers at religious teens specifically. They write:

"It would be a statistical and logical error to infer from our results, 'Religious teens get pregnant more often.' ... The associations we report could still be obtained if, hypothetically, religiosity in communities had an effect of discouraging contraceptive use in the whole community, including the nonreligious teens there, and only the nonreligious teens became pregnant. Or, to create a different imaginary scenario, the results could be obtained if religious parents discouraged contraceptive use in their children, but only nonreligious offspring of such religious parents got pregnant."

Here's the full study, published today in the journal Reproductive Health.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

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