The United States has one of the highest teenage birth rates amongst other industrialized nations.
And some have blamed the US’s more conservative methods of sexual education. So, we wanted
to know, why is the US so far behind?
Well, according to the most recent World Bank data, which measures teen births from girls
aged 15 to 19, Europe has most of the world’s lowest teen birth rates. Frontrunner countries
like Italy, Germany, and Switzerland reported rates below 4 teen births per thousand people.
Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium also had low rates - just 5 or 6 teen
births per thousand people. Overall, European countries tend to have less than 20 teen births
Why? Well, Europe’s low teen birth rate has been partially attributed to their progressive
sexual education. One researcher found that in the Netherlands, parents and teachers focus
less on the “dangers of sex”, and more on the normal, positive aspects. Dutch teenagers
are therefore less likely to be secretive and misinformed about their first sexual experiences.
Other northern European countries in particular, hold that young people are still “rights
holders”, and are entitled to correct and comprehensive sex education.
The US, by contrast, has one of the highest teenage birth rates of all the developed nations
- around 30 teen births per thousand. Many believe that this high rate has to do with
their more repressive views towards teen sex. In southern states especially, they teach
abstinence-only sexual education, which leaves out key details about pregnancy and diseases.
United Nations reports have noted that this kind of education can backfire, and contribute
to more risky sexual behavior. The US also has a generally more negative attitude towards
sex, highlighting the “dangers” and the risks associated with it instead of the benefits
of a healthy, intimate relationship.
So does sex ed make a difference? Well, there certainly seems to be a positive correlation
between comprehensive sex ed and low teen birth rates. However, not all countries follow
this pattern, and many scholars still disagree on the best method to decrease teen births.
Some United Nations officials maintain that, although the rates of teen sex are unlikely
to change, the safety of teen sex can be significantly improved with sexual education.
When it comes to Sex education, Germany is miles ahead of the United States. To learn
just how successful their program is, check out the story from Seeker here. There’s
a link to that video in the description if you’re on your phone. Thanks for watching