US, State Teen Pregnancy Rates Trend Down, Remain High

Monday, June 16, 2014

Vivianna Pardini was 15 years old when she got pregnant. Three months into her pregnancy, she heard about Marana High School's Teenage Parent Program, or TAPP.

TAPP is a day care center tucked away in a corner of Marana High. It provides care to babies and toddlers when their teen parents, mainly moms, are in U.S. history and geometry classes. But it's far more than a day care facility. TAPP is where young people like Pardini learn how to be parents.

Pardini is now 18, and just finished her junior year at Marana. Over the past few years she's been able to go to classes, while her daughter Yasleen has spent her days at TAPP. The daycare facility is located in Marana's campus – and the goal is to help teenage moms get their high school diploma.

In 2012, Pardini was one of nearly 10,000 teenagers to get pregnant in Arizona.

Teen pregnancy rates have dropped steadily and sharply across the U.S. over the past two decades, and Arizona has followed that trend.

However, with thousands of teens getting pregnant each year, there's still a long way to go, said Stephen Russell, interim director of the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Arizona.

"We think the rates (have gone) down and that's good news," he said. "But they're still dramatically higher than France, Germany, Switzerland."

Russell attributed the drop in pregnancy rates to increased awareness among teenagers about the risks of having sex.

"It used to be that you didn't expect young people to use a condom the first time they had sex and now that appears to be kind of a no-brainer," he said.

That greater understanding is in spite of fragmented formal sex education in schools. The state of Arizona doesn't require students to take sex ed. And parents have to give consent, to opt-in, for their children to take these classes, if a school even offers them. Only two other states in the U.S. have opt-in policies: Utah and Nevada. But unlike Arizona, both of them mandate sex education.

To read the rest of this June 6, 2014 Arizona Public Media article, click the link below.

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