Exposure to the TV shows with strong sexual content can boost risky sexual behavior among teens, leading them into early pregnancies, a new groundbreaking study suggests.
According to the novel study from Rand Corp., teens who watch adult-themed TV shows are more likely to become pregnant or to get someone pregnant by the time they turn 20.
The RAND study, carried out by a behavioral scientist Anita Chandra and colleagues, is the first to link viewing of the racy television programming with risky sexual behavior by teens.
"The relationship between exposure of this kind of content on TV and the risk of later pregnancy is fairly strong,” says Chandra. "Even if it were diminished by other contributing factors, the association still holds.”
Chandra based on a 2001 survey of 1,461 adolescents aged 12 to 17 who were interviewed three times between 2001 and 2004 by phone. The researchers asked them how often they watched any of 23 popular TV shows, ranging from cartoons, dramas and comedies to sex-saturated shows such as "Sex and the City," Friends” and “Gossip Girls.”
In their three-year study, Chandra’s team found that the top 10th of study subjects who watched the most sexy programming had two to three times the risk of becoming pregnant or were responsible for a pregnancy compared to the 10th who watched the fewest such content. 58 of the girls got pregnant and 33 of the boys had left a girl pregnant.
"Adolescents receive a considerable amount of information about sex through television and that programming typically does not highlight the risks and responsibilities of sex," said Chandra who reported her findings in the journal Pediatrics.
She continues:"Our findings suggest that television may play a significant role in the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the US."
The amount of sexual content on television according to Chandra has doubled in recent years, and as the TV shows with racy content tend to focus on the positive aspects of sex, and very rarely highlight the negative aspects or risks of sex, they induce teens to initiate sex earlier.
Chandra suggests that limiting children's exposure to the shows with lots of sexual content could help curb the teen pregnancies in the country.
According to the latest government report, compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a consortium of federal agencies, teen pregnancy rates in the United States have plunged sharply since 1991 but remain high compared to other industrialized nations.
The teen birth rate came down to all-time low of 21 per 1,000 young women, ages 15-17, in 2005, which is down from 39 births per 1,000 teens in 1991, the report says. The report also highlighted that the birth rate in the 15-19 age group was 40 per 1,000 in 2005, which is also significantly down from the previous decade.