Teen pregnancy isn’t just a black issue. Despite declines over the past decade, a 2000 National Campaign study shows that the U.S. still has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births in the industrialized world, with one in 10 children being born to a teenaged girl. But the fact of the matter is that many too black girls are getting pregnant as teens, and changing this can lead to a better future for the black community overall.

By every measure African-Americans have – from low birth weight to academic achievement to future incarceration rates – children born to teenage parents fare worse than their peers born to parents in their 20s and 30s.

Take into account the following statistics:

• Babies of teen mothers are more likely to be born prematurely and at a low birth weight than children of older mothers.

• Children of teen mothers are more likely to repeat grades, are less likely to complete high school and have lower performance on standardized tests than children born to older mothers.

• The sons of teen mothers are twice as likely to end up incarcerated than boys born to older mothers.

(Source: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy studies, 2005, 2006; National Vital Statistics Reports, 57 (7) (2006))

The good news is that progress is possible, and no one has made more progress on this issue than black teens. In fact, since the early 1990s, a National Campaign study shows that the rates of teen pregnancy in the black community have dropped by nearly half. But there is still a long way to go.

Here are some steps you can take right now to make a difference:

– Make sure the young people in your life know how to prevent pregnancy. Many parents wait too late to begin this important conversation. Take a proactive approach; don’t procrastinate.

– Talk to them about your own views and values.  A study conducted by International Communications Research reveals that 35 percent of teens say parents have the most influence when it comes to their dating relationships, more than the influence of friends, the media, religious leaders and boyfriends/girlfriends.

– Encourage them to make smart decisions. Talk early and often about future plans, such as college and career aspirations, so that they realize how an unplanned pregnancy can eliminate or delay those plans.

– Educate them about the consequences. Arm young people with the facts about love, sex and pregnancy. Knowledge is power.

If you’re still unsure about how to have this conversation, consult an expert in your community.

Teen pregnancy is 100-percent preventable. Start helping today by helping a young person you care avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

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