This show has always seemed to be one of the more horrifying offerings in the scripted reality genre, especially to this father of a teenage daughter. MTV has always rationalized the show by saying that publicizing the negative consequences will impact young girls and keep them from getting pregnant. Apparently, no one at MTV has ever met a teenager and seen the effects television can have on them.
The idea behind “16 and Pregnant” is that viewers will see the negative consequences that come from having a baby as a teenager. A content analysis of the show conducted by one of Aubrey’s graduate student collaborators at the University of Missouri does show more negative than positive consequences of pregnancy.
Aubrey claims, however, that the show is filled with mixed messages about pregnancy.
“There’s this semi-scripted moment in every show where the girls say things like, ‘If I had the opportunity, I would do things differently.’ But, then there’s also this adorable newborn, and the teen moms are getting all this attention from the people in their lives.”
Aubrey says that one of the “myths of teen pregnancy” that is measured in the study is that most teenage fathers stay involved with the young woman they have made pregnant. In reality, most teenage fathers do not stay involved, Aubrey said, citing National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy data. In the show, however, the teenage fathers typically do stay, she said.
“Romantic relationships are really important to many teenage girls,” said Aubrey. “And when you just look at those romantic relationships in the show, there are more positive consequences that the teen pregnancy brings than negative consequences.”
The researchers also note that the money and celebrity that the teenage moms receive may also be appealing to teenage girls.
The last part is one I have often discussed with people who like watching the show. The teenage mind isn’t known for its ability to weigh consequences or delay gratification. All the kids know when watching this is, “Hey-she got pregnant and got on TV!” Like it or not, they’re making it appealing to the adolescent mind.
If we could just get this show and 60 Minutes off the air, America would be a far better place.