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CONTRACEPTION & FAMILY PLANNING | Study Shows Teen Contraception Use Declining, Level of Sexual Activity Unchanged

CONTRACEPTION & FAMILY PLANNING | Study Shows Teen Contraception Use Declining, Level of Sexual Activity Unchanged
[June 19, 2009]

After years of declining teenage pregnancy rates and improved teen contraception use during the 1990s and early 2000s, the trends appeared to have flattened or even reversed among some groups of teens in recent years, according to a study from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Guttmacher Institute, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Researchers found that from 2003 to 2007, teens' contraceptive use declined by 10%, while their level of sexual activity did not change. The decrease in contraceptive use was particularly prevalent among black teens. The figures take into account the rate of contraception use as well as the types of contraceptives used, as methods vary in effectiveness. Teen condom use leveled off and in some cases declined, according to the study. The study also reported that the teen birth rate increased by 5% from 2005 to 2007.

According to the study's authors, the findings suggest a link between declining teen contraception use and the rise in abstinence-only education during former President George W. Bush's administration. President Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget proposal calls for redirecting some abstinence-only funds toward increased comprehensive sex education, the Monitor reports. In addition to the effects of abstinence-only sex education, the decline in condom use also could be tied to lessening concern about sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. A shift in the teen population to include a higher number of Hispanics -- who have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and birth -- also could contribute to the findings.

Laura Lindberg, one of the study's authors and a senior research associate at Guttmacher, said, "In the end, this story is really about the loss of momentum." She added that although the statistical changes are small, "they raise concern about what the next few years will bring in this country." Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, noted that the proportion of births to unmarried women, particularly among women ages 20 to 24, also is on the upswing (Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor, 6/18).