Pregnancy, Babies, Parenting News & Tips

Study: Heavy viewers of 'Teen Mom' and '16 and Pregnant' have unrealistic views of teen pregnancy

By Staff Reporter / Jan 09, 2014 10:52 PM EST
  • Pregnancy
  • (Photo : Canwest News Service/Wikimedia Commons) Marlise Munoz (not pictured here), the brain-dead woman who sparked conversations about end-of-life decisions across the country, was reportedly taken off life support Sunday after the Texas hospital where she was staying complied with a judge's order.

The creator of MTV's "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" said the shows have been called "one of the best public service campaigns to prevent teen pregnancy." A new Indiana University research study finds the opposite to be true.

Like Us on Facebook

The paper accepted for publication in the journal Mass Communication and Society presents findings that such teen mom shows actually lead heavy viewers to believe that teen mothers have an enviable quality of life, a high income and involved fathers.

Teens who perceived reality television as realistic were most likely to hold these perceptions.

The paper's authors are Nicole Martins, an assistant professor of telecommunications in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, and Robin Jensen, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah.

"Heavy viewers of teen mom reality programs were more likely to think that teen moms have a lot of time to themselves, can easily find child care so that they can go to work or school and can complete high school than were lighter viewers of such shows," Martins and Jensen wrote.

Frequent viewers of the programs also were more likely to believe that teen moms have affordable access to health care, finished college and lived on their own.

"Our data call into question the content of teen mom reality programming," they added. "Heavy viewing of teen mom reality programming positively predicted unrealistic perceptions of what it is like to be a teen mother."

Martins, the lead author, and Jensen were unable to ask the 185 high school students surveyed about sexual behavior. But they were able to ask about their perceptions of reality TV and teen pregnancy.

"The fact that teens in the study seemed to think that being a teen parent was easy might increase the likelihood that they'll engage in unsafe sexual practices," Martins said, "because that's not a real consequence to them."

MTV recently announced that "Teen Mom 3" will not be renewed for next season. However, the more successful franchise sequel, "Teen Mom 2," will return with a fifth season Jan. 20. Both programs spun off from an earlier series, "16 and Pregnant." They have been among the network's highest rated shows.

"As you study reality television with younger populations, you're going to find that younger children are going to have a harder time understanding that this is something that is scripted, edited and put together in a purposeful way to create a narrative and a drama," Martins said.

"Indeed, there are some individuals who believe that this reality TV show is like real life. For them, they were the most likely ones to hold unrealistic perception about teen parenthood."

The professors were somewhat surprised by the findings. Martins said the initial program, "16 and Pregnant," seemed to do a better job of focusing on the harsh realities faced by the teen moms. But the subsequent series, "Teen Mom," turned some of the young women into celebrities who end up on the cover of tabloid magazines.

"Maybe that's what's drawing viewers' attention: the fact that one of the teen moms, Farrah Abraham, repeatedly is on the cover of Us Weekly for all the plastic surgery that she's had. Well, a teen mom living in this country can't afford that; most unmarried teen mothers are on welfare," Martins said.

It is possible that teens desire the celebrity status afforded to the shows' teen mothers, which makes a larger impression on their perceptions of the teen mom experience than does the real-life narratives being broadcast.

"In other words, the attention and opportunities seemingly thrown at these teen parents may appear so appealing to viewers that no amount of horror stories from the reality shows themselves can override them," the professors wrote.

Industry estimates have suggested that the primary stars of "Teen Mom" received more than $60,000, as well as other commercial considerations. In contrast, nearly half of all teen mothers fail to earn a high school diploma and earn an average of $6,500 annually over their first 15 years of parenthood.

Students in the study attended schools that were chosen because demographically, the median annual household income and racial makeup of each school was consistent with the national average: $52,000 and 80 percent white. Participants ranged in age from 14 to 18. There were nearly even numbers of boys and girls.

Eighty percent of the young men said they never watched "16 and Pregnant" or "Teen Mom," but 58 percent of the young women reported they sometimes or always watched the shows.

Interestingly, the impact of exposure to these programs affected young men and women similarly. Even though more young women than men watched the shows, the effect between exposure and perceptions remained significant when gender was statistically controlled.

"This study makes a valuable contribution because it links exposure to specific content -- teen mom reality programming -- to teens' perceptions of teen motherhood," the professors concluded. "While it would be inappropriate to suggest that viewing these programs is the cause of teen pregnancy, one might consider it a contributing factor."

Provided by Indiana University
Featured Video : Never Leave Your Child Alone in the Car: Parents Urged to Take Heat Stroke Seriously Before it's too late

Cerner and Athenahealth say integrating with Apple's mobile health service

The Apple logo is pictured at a retail store in the Marina neighborhood in San Francisco, California April 23, 2014.

Read More »

White House calls for task force to tackle antibiotic-resistant bugs

A medical technician prepares samples in the specimen set-up area of the Vanderbilt Clinical Microbiology Lab in Nashville, Tennessee on October 19, 2012.

Read More »

U.N. to deploy Ebola mission as death toll reaches 2,630

1 of 3. Health workers remove the body of Prince Nyentee, a 29-year-old man whom local residents said died of Ebola virus in Monrovia September 11, 2014.

Read More »

IMF says Ebola hits economic growth in West Africa

A fan of Ivory coast holds a sign with a message against Ebola during the 2015 African Nations Cup qualifying soccer match between Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone at the Felix Houphouet Boigny stadium in Abidjan September 6, 2014.

Read More »

Nebraska Ebola patient showing more progress : hospital

Nebraska Ebola patient showing more progress : hospital

Read More »

U.S. FDA staff review of NPS drug sparks stock rebound

U.S. FDA staff review of NPS drug sparks stock rebound

Read More »

Ice Cold Awareness—The ALS Association & The #IceBucketChallenge

In terms of marketing ploys, none may be quite as viral in these past few summer months than the “Ice Bucket Challenge” which has swept through social media by storm. The concept, simple: to either donate funds to the ALS Association or douse yourself with a bucket of ice water. And like a chain mail or massive viral text, the challenge has been spread to the corners of the United States.
Initiated by the ALS Association, a non-profit organization that supports awareness and research into Amyotropohic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the organization has picked up momentum and a bank full of funds from the freezing summertime challenge.

Read More »

Mexican Scientists Develop New Device to Monitor Developing Cardiovascular Disease

With staggering statistics of the American Heart Association and other researchers in the field of cardiology proving that Hispanics/Latinos over the age of 20 have a greater than 30 percent incidence of cardiovascular disease, researchers in Mexico have begun developing a device that will monitor cholesterol and triglyceride levels—all without a single drop of blood.

Read More »

A Fanless PC That Can Keep Its Cool And Still Be Hot—Silent Power PC

The days of the traditional tower PC as we remember them are long gone. The contemporary takes on the personal computer are far sleeker, some might even say chicer than their 90's predecessors. Processors have picked up GB's of speed, memory has expanded exponentially and mother-boards have verged on the borderline microscopic. But what's more, some companies are even ditching the essentials for a more creative approach at high-speed processing.

Read More »

An Exercise in Simplicity—Faraday Café Puts An End to the Social Age

There’s something to be said in the simplicity that we grew up in. Confined by the evolutionary limitations our voices and our feet could manage, before the turn of the digital revolution, humans were a far less social creature… at least in theory. But now that we’re so connected on the internet, and constantly looking for more ways to log on rather than hang out, there are those who think that the simplicity and personal connections we once thrived on are lost.

Read More »

Perseids Meteor Shower 2014 [August 11-12 Live Streaming & Peak Times]: Perseids Play ‘til Tuesday

With the closest extra supermoon we’ll witness for another two decades orbiting just beyond our atmosphere this past weekend, many found that the radiating light-pollution was a distraction to the real show; the Perseids meteor shower.

Read More »

Mexican Copper Mine Contaminates Both Sides of the Border—Toxic Drinking Water

While researchers at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) are studying the results of a 140-cubic-foot oil spill in the North Sea, to identify issues and rapid response in the first 24 hours after a major spill, the Mexican government is far more preoccupied with a much more real situation of pollution near the American border. Only 25 miles south of the Mexican-American border in the province of Cananea, federal officials have reported that approximately 10 million gallons of toxic wastewater from the Buenavista copper mine have entered into nearby rivers, contaminating drinking water and causing massive die-offs in local fish/plant species.

Read More »

Real Time Analytics