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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : Values : How do you teach your child values when it's on the list with 'find another job,' 'get some sleep' and 'do the laundry?' : Mythbusters

July 17, 1994

MYTH: Teen-age pregnancies are soaring.

REALITY: Sexual activity rates have risen, but the pregnancy rate among sexually active teen-agers actually fell 19% between 1972 and 1990. The trend shows that teen-agers have become more successful in preventing pregnancy over the last two decades.

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MYTH: Teen-agers are fathering the babies born to teen-age girls.

REALITY: In 1990, in 23% of the births to a school-age parent, the partner was also of school age. In 69% of such births, the mother was of school age and the father was older. In fact, men older than 25 caused more births among teen-age mothers than did boys 10 to 18. In California, men older than 25 father around 12,000 babies born to teen-age mothers every year; nationally, they father more than 80,000.

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MYTH: Teen-age suicides have skyrocketed over the last 30 years.

REALITY: Although teen-age suicides rose 118% between 1970 and 1989 in the rest of the country, they dropped 16% in Los Angeles County, which has one of the lowest rates in the country. All suicides in L.A. County dropped 48% from 1970 to 1992, a phenomenon attributed partly to changing demographics: People of other races do not commit suicide as often as whites.

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MYTH: Out-of-wedlock births are a modern phenomenon.

REALITY: America's founding fathers were not always married: In Concord, Mass., a bastion of Puritan tradition, a third of children born during the 20 years before the American Revolution were conceived out of wedlock; during the 1780s and 1790s, a third of the brides in rural New England were pregnant when they married.

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MYTH: The 1950s were an era of sexual restraint, abstinence and deferred gratification.

REALITY: Teen-age birth rates soared in the 1950s and have not been equaled since. But childbirth was linked more to marriage then.

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MYTH: No one has time, and society's problems are too big for individuals to make a difference.

REALITY: Each of the following actions can be accomplished in less than five minutes:

1. Call a candidate's headquarters and ask for his or her position statement on children, violence, family values and education. Call the mayor's office or the White House Public Opinion line: (202) 456-1111.

2. Call the Campaign for Kids TV at (202) 628-2620 and request a free packet on monitoring the Children's Television Act.

3. Call or write teachers to applaud when they do something inspiring.

4. Donate books to elementary schools or public libraries.

Sources: Mike Males, UC Irvine; sociologist Stephanie Coontz; Alan Guttmacher Institute; Wade Clark Roof; Center for Media Literacy, Los Angeles; Margaret Brodkin.

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