Since the "birth" of MTV's Teen Mom — a spinoff of 16 and Pregnant — parents and curious fans alike have wondered whether or not the franchise has actually helped lower the teen pregnancy rate or if it's had the opposite effect. The series has often received backlash for glamorizing a nationwide issue, but contrary to popular belief, the show has indeed had a positive impact on America's youth.
According to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 16 and Pregnant led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months after its premiere. This accounted for about one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that time, researchers Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine concluded.
"We were really curious as to what was going on," said Melissa, who studied teen pregnancy with Phillip for more than ten years. Through her research, however, she learned, "Shows that make it clear how hard it can be... affect girls who might not care otherwise," she said. "You see she's fighting with her boyfriend on a daily basis. She's gaining weight. Her friends are partying without her."
Last year, MTV producer Morgan J. Freeman took to Twitter to defend the franchise. He wrote, "There's a HUGE difference between documenting and promoting. Sometimes having more eyes on a situation is inherently safer than none. Do your homework. You are the eyes; this is the process." He continued, "We document what is happening. We are not parents. We are not police. We do open up powerful discourse about many many things. That is good."
Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy agreed. "I think the takeaway here is that media can be, and often is, a force for good," he said. "We have always viewed these particular shows as sex education for the 21st century."
Teen Mom 2 airs Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on MTV.
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