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16 and Pregnant does not glamourise teen pregnancy. How could it?

22 January 2014

16 and Pregnant is an MTV show – a show that, as the title suggests, follows the lives of American teenage girls who are ‘facing unplanned pregnancies’. The programme – and its spin off shows, Teen Mom (1,2 and 3) – is one of the channel’s most popular documentary series; but it has also been dogged by accusations that it glamourises teen pregnancy. Even Kim Kardashian has had her say, writing on her blog, ‘girls, these are not people you should idolize’.

But a study released earlier this week shows that the programmes have actually had an inverse effect on the number of teenage births across the US. The research noted spikes in Twitter and Google searches for words such as ‘birth control’ in relation to when the programme was broadcast, and came to a conclusion that the show led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months after it first aired.


That won’t surprise anyone who watches the show regularly. It is far from glossy, and I honestly can’t see the ‘glamour’. I know that this is the point at which I would probably be told to ‘check my privilege’; but the girls’ lives are often a messy struggle of balancing relationships, children, and trying to finish their education. One blogger claimed that the fact that the show ‘chooses to focus on the girls’ volatile relationships with the babies’ fathers’, and sends out press releases titled: ‘Jenelle Runs Up Her Mother’s Credit Card Bill’ was irresponsible. But, as Jenelle Evans responded to one of her Twitter followers:  ‘Really, I shouldn’t be anyone’s idol.’ And, as Amber Portwood, another of the Teen Moms, replied to Kardashian:

‘It doesn’t glamorize anything! It shows the heartache we’ve all gone through. We may be “celebrities” because our face is out there, but it’s only because we’ve done some bad things. That’s not glamorous.’

And that’s quite true. Portwood herself has been charged with domestic violence towards her ex-boyfriend, and spent five months in jail after being charged with possession of drugs. Jenelle Evans’s fame stretches to having been arrested numerous times on charges ranging from drugs offences and breaching the peace to cyber stalking. Meanwhile Farrah Abraham, another ‘star’ of the show, has maintained her ‘fame’ by making a sex tape with a porn star and appearing on another reality show, Couple’s Therapy, … alone.

I can’t help but think that any girl who is inspired by those examples probably has issues that MTV can’t be blamed for.

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  • La Fold

    A prime example of how our society has teenagers who are adults too soon and who then turn into adults who are perpetually adolescents.

  • swatnan

    Of course it does. Because every teenager thinks it’ll never happen to them; that they’re going to be a lot more sensible than the others, and they’re above that sort of thing. People who take drugs and are alcoholics think the same way as well.

  • 2trueblue

    During the last governments ‘reign’ we saw a huge rise in single parenthood because the single mothers were treated as single households. This was obviously a signal that this was the way to get your own flat. What should have happened was they should have been set up in hostels with other young mothers and had some supervision. Old fashioned but less expensive and less attractive to those who might have thought of it as a quick way to leave home and have your own pad.

    • Donafugata

      The prospect of a sojourn in the mother and baby home, run by nuns would ensure that girls didn’t forget their contraception.

      As with the entire benefits system, this has become a life-style choice.

  • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

    It may not be glamorous but it is a nice little earner. The 16 year old mother need not look for a job, the tax payer will pay for all of the bairns needs and the mother can get priority on council housing lists.

  • Bonkim

    16 and pregnant – a lifetime of misery.

    • 2trueblue

      For both the mother and child/children.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    One of our local 15 yr olds had a bairn last week. Her mid 30s mother held one hand and she tweeted with the other in the delivery room.

    Brings tears to the eyes……

  • Makroon

    Is this nonsense (MTV ???) an example of the new, improved, media-manipulated Spectator ?

  • zanzamander

    I can’t help but think that any girl who is inspired by those examples probably has issues that MTV can’t be blamed for.

    Issues like: low self esteem, being thick, gullible, ungrateful, spoilt, being utterly useless in every other respect, bad hygiene and predatory?

    I blame the parents.

    I bet in nearly all these cases, the mother probably herself belong to one of the above categories and never once instilled any sense of dignity in their sprogs. They probably all come from broken families, whose parents have serial affairs, lives on welfare benefits and smokes.

    These are dregs who will forever remain a burden on our society. Absolutely nothing glamorous about these idiots.

  • Hugh

    Kim writes: “The kids from these shows are all over the news, even on the covers of
    magazines, and have been become almost like celebrities, but girls,
    these are not people you should idolize!”

    I believe that’s what’s called a lack of self-awareness.

  • Daniel Maris

    If true (who paid for the study?) all well and good.

    But in the UK we need proper policies.

    Any single girl under 18 should be assumed to be incapable of bringing up a baby (it is in fact the case in 99%) and the child should be adopted.

    Any single person under the age of 25 who has a child and is not able to support that child economically i.e. they rely on state handouts should be deemed to be requiring the state as a co-parent. The mother and child should be accommodated in a hostel where the child’s welfare will be subject to constant checks. The state would have co-parenting rights on decisions like where to live in the country, whether to emigrate, who might live with the mother and child.

    Lastly, we need to make it clear that a woman who has worked for 5 years or more and is aged 25 or over, will get generous welfare if they decide to have a child.

    Sadly, there’s no political will for such changes and so millions of children will be condemned to lives of material poverty, chaotic upbringing, and low self esteem.

    • monty61

      Seems reasonable.

    • HookesLaw

      Why not sent it to Australia instead. Your notions do not seem to have moved on from 1953.
      Political will? Triumph of the Will more like. Why not wrap it all up in a five year plan.

      • Daniel Maris

        You are just indulging in Jeremy Kyle sentimentalism – which results in millions being raised in poverty and emotional insecurity by drug-using narcissists.

        Clearly any single girl under 18 is not going to be in a position to raise a baby – we don’t live in that sort of society…we have, for good reasons, extended a kind of childhood well into the mid 20s as education has been extended.

        For young women over 18 they have the choice. If they want the state to fund their child being raised, then they have to accept the state as co-parent.

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