Family Group Faults Teen Sex Study

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - A pro-life group has strongly criticized a new study that compares the teen pregnancy rate in the United States with those of other developed countries, saying the "anti-child attitude" prevalent in those countries make them bad models for Americans.

The report, "Can More Progress Be Made? Teenage Sexual and Reproductive Health in Developed Countries," published by the New York-based Alan Guttmacher Institute, said the United States could learn from the experiences of Canada, Britain, France and Sweden in its efforts to curb teen pregnancy.

More societal assistance to teenagers in their transition to adulthood, acceptance of teenage sexual relationships and easy access to reproductive health services leads to lower rates of teen pregnancy and abortion, and should be considered by Americans, the study said.

But if the United States were to copy the family policies in effect in these countries, America "would soon become a nation without children," said Jim Sedlak, president of STOPP International, a pro-life group.

"There is an anti-child attitude in all these countries, and if we were to try to emulate them we would get the same kind of attitude here," he said.

Despite gains, the United States still lags behind in the battle against out-of-wedlock births, the study found. The U.S. teenage birthrate in 2000, which is down 20 percent from 1990, still remains about twice as high as rates in Great Britain and Canada, and five times as high as in Sweden and France.

U.S. teens are more likely than their Canadian, French and British peers to become sexually active at a young age, have shorter and more sporadic sexual relationships than teens in other countries, and are less likely to use contraceptives.

Across socio-economic levels, American teenagers are the most likely to have a child by age 20. Compared with adolescents in the other countries, U.S. teens are more likely to grow up in disadvantaged circumstances, which is strongly linked with having a child during the teenage years.

In the lowest economic group, teens in the United States are 58 percent more likely to have children than their peers in Great Britain.

The study also noted a strong consensus in countries other than the United States that childbearing belongs in adulthood. Young people in Europe are considered adults only when they have finished their education, become employed and live independently from their parents.

However, Sedlak blasted the Guttmacher Institute as "a special research affiliate of Planned Parenthood" and said the countries listed in the study were "dying because they have become anti-child."

"In order for a country to replace its population, it must have an average of 22 births for every 10 women - just over two children per family. The U.S. currently has 21 births for every 10 women. But France has only 19, Great Britain has 17, Sweden has 15 and Canada has just 14 births for every 10 women - well below the replacement rate," he said.

Susheela Singh, one of the study's authors, said the countries the researchers picked were comparable with other developed countries in terms of population growth. Sweden has almost no population growth, but the United Kingdom and France are growing by almost a half a percent a year. Canada is actually growing faster than the United States, she said.

The research was modeled on a similar Guttmacher study carried out in the mid-1980s, Singh said, which looked at the same four countries and the Netherlands.

Lack of funds this year prevented the researchers from expanding the study to include an eastern European or southern European country, she said. "When we had to cut back we thought it would make sense to be comparable with the past study, that's how we ended up choosing the same group essentially," Singh added.