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Are TV shows decreasing teen pregnancy?

MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” highlighted and showcased young people having children and the environment surrounding a young soon-to-be family.

But according to a new study, the show actually slowed down teen pregnancy.

The study, titled “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing” and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, said teen pregnancy rates dropped significantly after the show’s launch in June 2009, USA Today said.

And there was about a “5.7 (percent) drop in teen births that would have been conceived in the 18 months after the franchise premiered,” according to USA Today. The study said the 5.7 percent drop “accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period."

"The conventional wisdom is that these shows glamorize teen pregnancy and parenting," said Bill Albert, program director at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Washington, D.C., to USA Today. "What we've seen in the past, though, is that for teens who watch these shows, the message is more sobering than salacious."

But other studies have shown different results about what “16 and Pregnant” and its spinoffs, like “Teen Mom,” show young people, according to Time magazine.

A study by Indiana University showed the show’s teen viewers tend to think that teen parents, like those showcased by MTV, "have a lot of time to themselves, can easily find child care, will complete school, have affordable access to health care, finished college and lived on their own.”

But, as writer Eliana Dockterman explains for Time, just because of the show’s popularity and glamorizing of teen pregnancy lifestyles, it doesn’t mean young people are going to create young families.

“After all, young boys playing 'Grand Theft Auto' may think that stealing cars leads to a glamorous, rich lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean they’re dropping out of college to steal cars instead,” wrote Dockterman.

In Brazil, telenovelas, or soap operas, are having an impact on teens and pregnancy, too, according to the Population Media Center. After a teenage pregnancy storyline aired on the show “Paginas da Vida,” about 65.4 percent of the women interviewed for the study — 60 percent of whom watch the "Paginas da Vida" telenovela — "said they would be ‘more careful’ to prevent unwanted pregnancy,” the PMC said. Brazil’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped below that of the United States, according to National Geographic.

And a study published in 2008 by the Inter-American Development Bank reported on the connection between entertainment mediums — like telenovelas — and the social behavior of the Brazilians. The study showed that many of the families on the telenovelas are smaller, which influences how viewers want their families to grow.

“Television reiterates the discourse of a very specific model: a small, beautiful, white, healthy, urban, middle or upper middle class consumerist family,” the study said. “Novelas have thus provided a powerful medium for idealizing the small family.”

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com Twitter: @hscribner