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Condoms or family meals?

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Mark Easton | 14:52 UK time, Thursday, 26 March 2009

What stops teen pregnancies: condoms or family meals?

Is the answer to teenage pregnancies more advice on how to get an abortion? Or pre-watershed TV ads on the wisdom of wearing a condom?

Britain has the highest level of teen conceptions in Europe, but I suspect that the problem is more down to lifestyle than to lack of information.

If the equation were as simple as [more sex education = fewer unwanted pregnancies], why have Britain's rates remained stubbornly high during a decade when advice has never been easier to access?

As far as the availability of abortions is concerned, the latest figures show record numbers opting for a termination. In 2007, more than 20,000 girls under the age of 18 received a legal abortion in England and Wales - a rate of 20/1000, the highest ever recorded.

These figures do not suggest that it is ignorance of the options that sees so many young women give birth.

Allowing pregnancy advisory services to advertise on television is clearly controversial, but is it any more problematic than allowing those same organisations to put up posters on school notice boards? Or on bus shelters? These already happen.

So far as information on contraception is concerned, I doubt that there is a secondary-school-aged child who hasn't had the low-down on condoms. The question is whether they take any notice.

For me, the figures which offer the most likely explanation for the UK's high teen pregnancy rates do not relate to sex education at all. They reflect upon the amount of time young people spend unsupervised with other young people - kids hanging around without adults.

Research published by the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank (IPPR) [55Kb PDF; registration required] in 2007 looked at the lifestyle of teenagers in a number of European countries.

Proportion of 15-year-olds spending time with friends four or more evenings a week, 2001/02Proportion of 15-year-olds spending time with friends four or more evenings a week, 2001/02; source: IPPR

In France, just one in six of 15-year-old boys questioned said that they spent most evenings out with their mates. In Italy and Germany, it was roughly one in four.

But in England, the figure was 45% who spent most nights with their teenage friends. In Scotland, the figure was nearly 60%.

Young people whose parents eat the main meal with them around a table several times a week, 2000Young people whose parents eat the main meal with them around a table several times a week, 2000; source: IPPR

Compared with other European countries, our youngsters don't spend much time with their parents. Just 7% of Italian kids said that they rarely sat down for a meal with their mum and dad. In the UK, the figure was 36%.

If young people are spending a lot of time with other young people, often taking alcohol or drugs and without parental or other adult supervision, it is far more likely that they will end up having sex.

1Proportion of 15-year-olds who have had sexual intercourse, 2001/02Proportion of 15-year-olds who have had sexual intercourse, 2001/02; source: IPPR

And our youngsters do: 38% of our 15-year-olds say they have had sexual intercourse compared to 16% in Spain, 22% in France, 23% in the Netherlands, 24% in Italy and 28% in Germany. I suspect that almost four in ten 15-year-olds having sex is less about ignorance and more about opportunity.

Update 0827 2009-03-27: The second image was initially published with the same caption as the first. Now corrected; thank you, aliskat.


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  • 1. At 3:38pm on 26 Mar 2009, ravenmorpheus wrote:

    "What stops teen pregnancies: condoms or family meals?"

    The answer is neither.

    The solution is for parents to educate their children better and for less "hands off" parenting.

    The problem is that parents of today are getting younger and are less well educated in "life matters" compared to people who are now parents and were born in, for arguments sake lets say pre-1980, and are simply unprepared for being a parent and thus fail because they either don't care or just plain cannot cope and thus their kids end up doing as and how they please.

    There is a lack of responsibility instilled in children these days and that can only be solved by parents not by TV advertising condoning abortions among teenagers who "accidentally" get pregnant.

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  • 2. At 3:45pm on 26 Mar 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    It is unbelievable that we are considering advertising abortion on TV. I have no religious axe to grind here, but the number of abortions we have already in the UK shows that we are failing our children. I'm sure the word 'choice' will be used by those who approve of abortion, but surely even they must agree that far too many are carried out. Surely the architects of legalisation in the '60s did not have in mind the hundreds of thousands that are carried out each year, most because the child would be inconvenient, poorly-timed or a burden on the mother's lifestyle. Surely it is inhuman and damaging to use abortion for anything other than the direst emergency.

    But still the figure rises. I know girls in their early 20s who have had 3 and 4 terminations. Women of all ages are using a termination as a matter of course. 30 years ago a woman with no other practical choice might have had a termination and agonised over it for the rest of her life Maybe some still do, but we seem to have become desensitised to it now. We must have. Why else would it be so widespread? Unless virtually every woman in the UK is a mass of regret and agony, it seems that terminating a pregnanacy is as simple and regret-free as having a boil lanced. Convenience has triumphed over humanity.

    In a country where contraception, sexual advice, sex-related problems and all matters sexual are debated openly and widely across all media, it is hard to understand why it happens so often. Nobody WANTS more abortions, so it would seem logical to make them harder to obtain. It would seem logical to make women aware of the medical, spiritual and perhaps religious reasons why they should not have one. It would be logical, in short, to discourage the practice. But this is Britain, this is New Labour - this is the country that responded to an awful alcohol problem by opening pubs for longer! Given this disconnected thinking. you can bet that abortion adverts offering 'buy one, get one free' will be appearing on a TV near you soon!

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  • 3. At 3:53pm on 26 Mar 2009, sosglobal wrote:

    Mark - as a Social enterprise, we praises today's move by the CAP and BCAP to review of Advertising Codes in an effort to halt high rates of teenage pregnancy and welcome the issues the WEU report highlights. Our organisation has been working with local authorities nationally for the last year, providing youth in-reach health awareness training. We have also patented the first ever safe sex underpant and anti-spiking drink lids. By quantifying our own data from our interactive workshops we have found that contrary to your beleif that 'there isnt a secondary-school-aged child who hasn't had the low-down on condoms', information about date rape, STi’s and teenage pregnancy is in short supply nationally, leaving our youth uneducated and therefore vulnerable. Only 10% of our students said that they had current information on STI's, only 41% use a condom and over 88% did not know where free condoms were available.

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  • 4. At 4:13pm on 26 Mar 2009, Anti_Labour wrote:

    Excellent analysis Mark.

    We need more of this intelligent 'pointing towards the root cause' than the current popular unintelligent method of making blind assumptions and throwing money at the symptoms to no avail to look as though you are doing something.

    If only there could be this kind of rational thinking among those who make the decisions 'on the behalf of the country'!

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  • 5. At 4:50pm on 26 Mar 2009, ProLiberty wrote:

    I think, from my own experience, that teen pregnancies are caused, at least in part by teens having nothing else to do (there aren't really any after school activites that don't cost an arm and a leg to speak of), peer pressure, and benefits.

    Of these, I would say peer pressure to have sex is probably limited to the youngest teen parents, those under 15. As I remember, since it wasn't that long ago, kids were generally egged on to have sex by their friends, and then mocked afterwards. At this stage of life, I think it is most important to ensure teens have access to contraceptives (it's going to happen anyway) and advice about pregnancy and STDs. You won't catch many of them seeing the nurse at school about it (or the biology teacher), so the best strategy is to keep it out of school, through GPs offices, and a website with a freephone number. This way, advice is confidential, and their mates are less likely to get wind of it. As pointed out in #3, I think it is very important to include the dangers of sex with all of the literature and advice available, but carefully because we don't want to mess these kids up for life.

    Once a teen leaves school, that's when the benefits become more important, because sex is old news by this point for most kids. Parenting's seen, not so much as a lifestyle choice, more as the only option available to young women, many of whom have already lost the aspiration for a better life. This lack of aspiration isn't something that can be changed (not without creating jobs people actually want to do - like creating/fixing things, as opposed to selling them), because that would be lying. These teens might not be academically smart, but they're not idiots. They know perfectly well that the best most of them can hope for, career-wise, is a lower management position in a national retail chain or a callcentre. It's a dreary, drudging kind of life which can be completely avoided by having a kid or ten.

    A nasty, nasty thing we could do, that I really don't support (but boy would it fix things) is to DNA test every child born to a woman under 16 and any possible fathers, and then stitch the lad up for maintainance ever after. Wouldn't that strike the fear of god into them? They wouldn't want to go without a condom if they knew they'd be penalised for it for the next 18 years. I can't see any objection actually, so long as the DNA record was immediately destroyed once patriarchy had been proven.

    You may say these girls should be studying, rather than wandering the streets til all hours (and then getting knocked up), but if you don't see the point of school, why be too worried about being bright-eyed for it in the morning, or indeed turning up at all? As a teenager, at that time of the morning, you feel rubbish no matter how much sleep you've had. As a growing young adult, you need cheap/free places that aren't 100% supervised (if it makes you feel like a child you're not going to go), that take consideration of estate boundaries and school rivalries. Most teens just want a space where they feel comfortable, not constantly watched, where they can watch their own choice of TV and have a chat, and feel safe. Just a big room with booths and small televisions, couple of pool tables, essentially a teen's pub.

    This isn't really the government's problem. All that needs to be done, if government meddling is required, is to remove benefits for mothers under 16. That'll be enough to get their parents in line. And if we're worried about serial parents, just limit benefits to two children.

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  • 6. At 5:02pm on 26 Mar 2009, stapes62 wrote:

    Parenting and being a parent to your children is the only way to help this and a number of other issues we have in this country. From a school education point of view my kids have been to school in other countries and the school education is no better but the parents are,in terms of spending more time with their children and being a family. How do you get those values back when so many parents just expect the schools to do their job for them?

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  • 7. At 5:37pm on 26 Mar 2009, Serenegoose wrote:

    5, Proliberty: remove benefits for mothers under 16. Wow, what a wonderful way to ensure malnutrition, loathing of the child, long term depression, and a slew of other mental and physical problems that can be caused. Isn't it absolutely amazing (and I don't refer to you specifically, proliberty, as I have tangented) that we are so quick to restrict children, to claim their naivete, to say they must have parental supervision every minute of every day lest they start -becoming adults- when we're not looking... and then to demand prohibitive punishments whenever they DO display immaturity? I mean, either they're not smart or mature enough to understand what they've done, and so ruining their life is hardly a reasonable course of action, or they are mature enough, and so should be entitled to the full gamut of adult privelige. No?

    As for parental supervision being the answer, I disagree with Mark Easton. Being a parent does not give one blinding insights to the nature of the universe, does not guarantee intelligence, maturity, or any redeeming qualities whatsoever. Had I spent time with my parents and picked up their 'qualities' I'd be a drunk misogynistic (and thus rather self loathing) bigot. Why don't we stop holding up parents as being the golden cure for everything that is wrong with the current generation, when they're only human and subject to the same foibles as us all. Perhaps the real problem here isn't 'the current generation' but society in general, from top to bottom, adult to child. Is there something that prevents this culture from openly examining itself and addressing the flaws that lead to this disillusioned generation appearing at all, or are we just going to blame them for everything and rest easy?

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  • 8. At 6:13pm on 26 Mar 2009, aliskat wrote:

    Shouldn't your second graphic be titled 'Proportion of 15 yr olds spending evenings with their parents' ?

    Otherwise a thoughtful and interesting article.

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  • 9. At 6:41pm on 26 Mar 2009, FatPeace - A Promise to Heather wrote:

    ProLiberty (#5) an excellent analysis and one that our knee-jerk politicians would do well to heed. The only aspect on which our opinions diverge would be on the idea of providing 'teen pubs' (AKA youth clubs to those of us old enough to remember them). That's because I believe the answer lies not in maintaining this artificial antagonism between young people and adults - a barrier which was instigated by and which continues to benefit advertisers and the media but which robs teenagers of the potential counsel and wisdom of their parents - but in building generational bridges by encouraging young people to do more of their socialising at home and around the family.

    Of course there are some instances where kids are probably better off out of the home, dysfunctional as it can be, and the parents who are seduced by shiny-shiny and themselves have all the social awareness and emotional maturity of adolescents. However good parenting, rare as it now is, can make all the difference. I learned much from my mother, a compassionate person who nurtured inquisitiveness and was unimpressed by materialism, and I suspect that it was the time spent around her, rather than my peers, who created the reasonably bright and balanced adult I am today.

    If families in Europe, Africa, South America and even parts of the US can set aside their generational differences to the degree that they can have meals and outings together, as British families once did, why do we cling to the assumption that it's somehow natural or inevitable for kids to want to hang around on dark streets being egged on into irresponsible behaviour by others of their own age in order to achieve illusory 'status' within the group?

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  • 10. At 6:49pm on 26 Mar 2009, chicagojlo wrote:

    Lippylippo must have a very strange set of acquaintances, over the last decade of living in 3 countries I've only known one person who had an abortion and she was 16 at the time. It's not all that common and it's not seen as an everyday occurrence at all.
    As for educating teenagers - I currently have two separate friends who have managed to get themselves pregnant less than a month into a new relationship, and both are in their 30s. Apparently the idea of having a baby to obtain benefits/trap a man/have someone to love you forever/etc does not go away no matter what your age is.
    The problem basically comes down to all these poor girls thinking that this is the best they can do for themselves - you may as well get a council house because you'll never afford one of your own, you may as well not bother with school because you'll never get a decent job anyway, you may as well start claiming benefits now because anything you ever earn will just be taken off you by the taxman. It's easy to see how these girls can be trapped into this line of thinking when it's all they seem to see and hear from their parents and today's media. Letting our daughters think that they are not worth anything more than this has got to stop.

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  • 11. At 6:58pm on 26 Mar 2009, curiouscasey wrote:

    I know of a really interesting body of work concerning child abuse and neglect and the link to abortion in previous generations, how loss can interfer with the ability to bond with babies. Anyone interested in knowing more? it is radical and time we all took these issues seriously.

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  • 12. At 7:00pm on 26 Mar 2009, brilliantDitsydog wrote:

    As a parent of teenagers, we do not stand a chance in educating our children that sex is a serious matter when the NHS website given to them by their school for sexual health matters is called "". We have already received 20 Clymidia test packs which a friend of my daugher's thought would be a good joke. I can see that this website is not promoting sensible sex but advertising it as a fun thing for which precautions should be taken.

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  • 13. At 8:35pm on 26 Mar 2009, StrongholdBarricades wrote:

    An interesting article, but I don't think many of the factors are actually consistent across the whole of those canvassed.

    Basically the report seems to be suggesting that locking up our kids would stop teenage pregnancies...well yes it might...but I'm not sure that is what the human rights legislation says that all parents can do

    Education and responsibility must play their part too.

    I do note that there is no criteria for educational attainment, or family social background or...and there's a whole list of other variables

    So nice presentation, but I don't fully believe the findings

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  • 14. At 9:12pm on 26 Mar 2009, Lucas wrote:

    I understand and see the magnitude of dilemma posed of contraceptives, abortion in sexual ethics. It is a difficult question and I can't say it is always right to be fully against abortion/contraception or conversely, advocate an anything goes policy.

    I've linked your blog with mine on the subject.

    You can read more here:

    Would like to invite others to read and give their views too.


    Lucas Weatherby /

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  • 15. At 9:25pm on 26 Mar 2009, Jedidiah74 wrote:

    I believe many young girls still get pregnant in order to qualify for free or cheap housing, child benefit, and other benefits. One way to reduce SOME teen pregnancies would be to make pregnancy less attractive by removing these benefits from teenagers, or at least from girls under sixteen. OR - make child benefit payable only for later children, not for the first.

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  • 16. At 10:44pm on 26 Mar 2009, tarquin wrote:

    My sentiments exactly, I also feel that the tabloid media stops us addressing the issue correctly, as I wrote about myself

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  • 17. At 00:44am on 27 Mar 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    What stops teen pregnancies: condoms or family meals?
    I think that condoms, somewhat will stop teen pregnancy...
    But, I think family meals, would have a conductive affect to stop it also.

    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 18. At 00:58am on 27 Mar 2009, jab4999 wrote:

    I think there is some truth in the free benefits thing, but it's more a matter of young very maternal girls who really really want a kid, and know they can cause the government will help them out. As for condoms and meals at home. When I was in high school my parents were very hands off, I went to school cause they got phoned if i didnt, I got decent marks cause it was easy, and I was home cause I wasn't very social. That said I still got some. I made almost no effort, spent 6-7 nights home a week and i still got some. Because it's easy. Teenagers want to have sex, and will. The real problem is with condoms. Condoms are great, they stop disease and pregnancy. I used them some times, and some times i didnt if a girl was on the pill and unlikely to be diseased. When I used a condom I was really bad at it, really really bad. I took sex ed, and I didn't know what I was doing, putting them on was tricky, no one told me about sizes, and it was annoying and mood ruining. I messed up alot with condoms, I'd often finish and find, hey, I'm not wearing a condom anymore. The pill is the best way to stop pregnancy, the pill is way harder to mess up, STIs aside, the pill is the only reason I didn't get a girl pregnant. The other reason condoms are a problem, when you don't have one, you still have sex when you're a teenager, one time a girlfriend of mine in my late teens went off the pill for a month, and we ended up using the withdrawal method for lack of condoms. Diseases are important, but condoms just aren't very good unless sex ed really beefs up 'how to lessons'. Give every kid a cucumber and a condom everyday for a month in school, and pregnancy rates will drop like stones.

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  • 19. At 02:03am on 27 Mar 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Is the answer to teenage pregnancies more advice on how to get an abortion? Or pre-watershed TV ads on the wisdom of wearing a condom?

    I think that I will answer both of the questions, in this fashion...Mark: To encouraged teenagers that their is a social cost on having a "teenage" pregnancy...Versus, showing TV Advice on Abortion and wearing a condom...Which are both very important tools that should be made available...

    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 20. At 08:19am on 27 Mar 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    Hang on a minute Mark - didn't people on here tell you teenagers were hanging around on the streets without parental supervision and it was causing problems?

    I find the use of 'under 18' statistics interesting.

    Example one: 17 year old, lawfully married, happy to have a baby. Case two: 13 year old, criminal offence for her to be having sex with the 14 year old father. I would suggest these are two very different things.

    Is the use of 'under 18' all conflated together a deliberate ploy? - firstly to up the numbers to justify policy/spending and secondly to conceal the number of very young children involved in unlawful activity?

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  • 21. At 10:14am on 27 Mar 2009, Kevin1890 wrote:

    The first thing that comes to my mind as a solution to this problem is introducing Indian philosophy among people of Britian. The only reason India excels today even after years of suppression and slavery is the strength of its culture formed from the Sacred Texts of Vedas and it has already proven its might there. Why can't this by tried here?

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  • 22. At 10:23am on 27 Mar 2009, newsjock wrote:

    One of the reasons that teenage girls become pregnant is to escape the family home.

    If you become a young mum, you can go straight to the top of a waiting list for council/housing association houses.

    Stop this practice, and the teenage conception rate will be reduced.

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  • 23. At 10:24am on 27 Mar 2009, cyberjunior wrote:

    Parental supervision, "Dinner together ", prevents all socially irresponsible behavior. In three generations of my family there have been no teenage pregnancies, drug abuse, school dropouts or any social service intervention. This is the result of close parental supervision. Myself, sisters, nieces were not allowed to run around like wild animals.
    The state is only needed to provide a safe environment for parents to raise their families. Education should be directed at the parents.

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  • 24. At 10:44am on 27 Mar 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    I am always disappointed when comments such as 'well teens are going to do it anyway, we might as well accept it' are posted. This is a gutless response to the problem, but unfortunately our society these days has a habit of letting the tail wag the dog. Why are we so afraid of our children that we let them do exactly what they like? Why are we caving in to their demands and providing condoms and abortions on tap to help them do what they shouldn't be doing in the first place? We can all see the consequences of allowing immature teens too much freedom, yet we do it because we're scared to impose our will - maybe for fear of seeming uncool or old-fashioned. My parents generation didn't care a hoot for this. They were the grown-ups. They were in charge. We were children. We did what we were told. We didn't like it much, but allowing our children too much freedom is bad for them and bad for society. The media, quick to make a fast buck, has reinforced this belief by never showing kids in a normal family context. They are always on their own, with their mates, and their parents, if they are shown, are always hopelessly dysfunctional. This constant chipping away at the family unit makes it even harder for parents to be parents.

    Teens are not going to 'do it anyway' if they don't have the opportunity. They don't in Poland, as the figures show. There is a massive jump to the 38% in the UK! It is clear that the UK alone is doing something desperately wrong. I am convinced that the destruction of the family ethic is behind this. We all know that adults are getting less grown-up - men and women in their 20s and 30s act like teenagers. No longer do they marry at 24 and settle down to family life. Women in their 40s want to get boyfriends, fake tans and wear skinny jeans. It's as if kids get in the way of our pursuit of fun, and we're quite happy for them to do 'their own thing'. It's easy, but it's not right. Being a parent means you have to leave the world of hedonism and make a commitment to being the head of your own family. Not everybody likes being the boss, but somebody has to be or it's just chaos. If you don't feel able to leave the pursuits of youth behind, please do society a favour and don't procreate! If us adults can't be trusted to be mature and responsible, how on Earth can we expect our kids to do so?

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  • 25. At 1:58pm on 27 Mar 2009, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:

    The question of the extent to which the availability of state benefits encourages teenagers to get pregnant is an interesting one. They certainly can't be ignored in this discussion, but the relationship is not simple enough that it can be comfortably nailed down in a few lines in a blog. For anyone who's interested, the Joseph Rowntree foundation published some quite thoughtful research on this in 2006, which you can read at

    What is undoubtedly true, however, is we shouldn't assume that better sex education would of itself reduce teenage pregnancies. Many teenagers make a conscious decision to get pregnant.

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  • 26. At 2:41pm on 27 Mar 2009, U13889990 wrote:

    I think the key phrase in your report is SEX education. Sure it's easy to get that in the UK; what teens need is RELATIONSHIP education. It's the difference between knowing what goes where, and understanding the consequences of that action - physically, emotionally and psychologically.

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  • 27. At 3:57pm on 27 Mar 2009, Human Cash Point wrote:

    Maybe if the government didn't throw so much money in benefits at these child mothers they would think twice? As soon as little miss independant realises that the way out of her parents home isn't to get pregnant then it will reduce dramatically!!!

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  • 28. At 11:37pm on 27 Mar 2009, regalsammy-boy wrote:

    It seems to me that the government is incapable of really getting to the root cause of this problem which is the breakdown of the family, the example of parents or lack of them and the benefit system. No amount of abortion or contraception availability will disguise the fact that kids are still encouraged to have sex from a very young age, when really, there is far more to childhood, and indeed life, than sex. Companies like Brookes, make their money out of promoting and offering contraception and abortifacaents to young single mothers with no self-esteem. It's in their interest to have as many teenage pregnancies as possible.

    The answer is to get Cameron in, and to introduce a benefit system that protects married couples, and for parents to teach their children that the reason for sex is to express your love for your spouse by giving them (and you) a child. It is a positive act of love.

    Abortion and contraception (contra-ception: from the latin meaning "against life") turn it into a negative act and lays it all to waste.

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  • 29. At 05:00am on 28 Mar 2009, reform08 wrote:

    Having lived in the Netherlands as a UK ex-pat, some differences I saw were;
    1. Dutch girls generally had higher self esteem. They seemed more confident, and had higher aspirations. Having a baby as a teenager is just not an interesting option to them. I don’t even think the job opportunities were any better than the UK, yet girls just do not see having a baby as their only option. I think this more mature attitude came from better parenting, better sex education methods, and better teaching generally. The relevant authorities in the UK should visit the Netherlands to see what works there and why their girls are different.
    It seems to be low self esteem in young girls which leads to early sexual experience. The question is why do they have low self esteem? If its poor parenting, then schools must help girls by teaching the life skills that they are not learning at home. The same goes for boys of course. I think the statistics show that the Netherlands has the lowest rate of teenage pregnancies in Europe, so obviously they are doing something right.
    2. Its not the case in the Netherlands that young pregnant girls/women will be given a flat or house. I read somewhere that the UK is the only country in Europe that follows this practice of generous benefits and housing for young mothers. It is a completely misguided policy and has contributed to the breakdown in society that we see today. Children raising children, neglect and abuse of babies and children. I believe a lot of this stems from a totally flawed benefit system. An intelligent government would have tackled this long ago, as the negative results have been apparent for many years.
    3. I noticed that for many Dutch parents, their children were their absolute priority, and central in their lives. They spent time with them, doing family things together, etc. Thats the same in many European societies, but unfortunately not so in Britain. When I visit the UK, I notice that the whole attitude towards children is different. Just the way people interact with children, from shopkeepers to government institutions. I have heard the same from other UK ex-pats. Also, sadly, there seem to be more selfish parents, who put their own interests first, and are more interested in material things than nurturing their children. Children pick up on the fact that their parents are pre-occupied with their own interests and selfish lives. It leads to a general disconnect and by the time they are teenagers, the results can be seen in unhappy or aggressive teenagers, seeking sexual experience as a way of filling the gaps in their lives.
    Somehow these parents have missed out on learning what is required of a parent, and how to relate to their children. And realising that once you have a child, its not all about you anymore. Perhaps freely available parenting classes for every stage of the childs life are an idea.
    The media, TV, advertising also play a part in shaping attitudes towards children and the way teenagers behave, and that needs to be addressed. Attitudes can be changed, policies can be changed. I dont think any of the current situation is irreversible. But old fashioned family values seemed to fall out of fashion, and its time to admit that many of those values worked, and to bring them back.

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  • 30. At 12:01pm on 28 Mar 2009, androstempest wrote:

    This is a subject that has been in the news since I was that age. I grew up in a part of the country where we topped a table of highest teen pregnancy rates during the 1990's. What was the cause? bad diet? no I seriously don't think so, poor education? in some cases but not all, bad parenting? again the sheer number of cases meant that not every pregnant teenager came from a broken or disfunctional family, so what was the cause?

    To be honest I think peer pressure is a big contributor, so many people in my year at school claimed they had had sex by the time they were 16, it almost felt like a competition. Being a virgin became almost an insult, and I very much doubt that the situation has changed dramatically since then.

    The media doesn't help much, when younger and younger actors are involved in "sexy storylines" on shows like Eastenders, children who identify with those characters may feel that they are being "left behind" because they aren't. Plus in modern society sex and love are often seen as interchangable and mutually dependant.

    What I find most telling though, is that in certain parts of Britain today, sexually transmitted diseases are on a rapid increase, this coinciding with new figures showing record numbers of teen prenancies AND abortions, the message that sex is safer with a condom isn't getting across, neither is the message that NO sex is SAFE sex.

    I've no answers, just a depressing sense of deja vu. This didn't just happen in the current generation, like so many of Britain's ills, it started several generations ago and has been escalating ever since.

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  • 31. At 1:08pm on 28 Mar 2009, RomeStu wrote:

    Quite obviously in a physical sense it is condoms that prevent teem pregnancies.
    However the underlying issues of why the UK has so much higher rate of teen pregnancies is complex, and has no easy answers.

    To those hard-liners who speak of removing the welfare benefits to remove the incentive - you clearly have no understanding of the deeper issues. For every calculating teen hoping for housing, there must be dozens who just got knocked up through ignorance of contraception, date rape, pressure from "boyfriend" and then was too scared to seek help.

    Why punish these people more. We need as a society to address the long-term benefits of education (or lack of it) along with the social issues related to poverty, family breakdown and other factors.

    Here's an interesting thought - Italy has but a fraction of the teen pregnancy of the UK. Why.
    there are several factors about Italy which contribute ... strong family units, strong "cultural" (if not observant) religious upbringing (I'm an atheist, but I see the ethical benefit of a "traditional" upbringing) and finally ..... there is a condom vending machine on the wall OUTSIDE every pharamacy in the country!!

    Are the Italians nit doing it as much? It's possible, but given their reputation as Latin Lovers that is debatable. However what is certain is that easy availability of contraception means there is no excuse for getting knocked up!

    And yes, this is despite the fact that the Pope just said condoms are bad!

    Ciao Tutti.

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  • 32. At 2:01pm on 28 Mar 2009, potles_magnet wrote:

    I'm always surprised by how many young girls are having babies because they want them - not because they accidentally get knocked up, or because they want benefits, but because they actually crave having a baby, crave having something to love. I believe children are pushed into growing up so fast now and expected to rush into independence from their families and they actually end up lost and empty and searching for anything to make them feel complete. Even if they don't actively want the babies, a lot of girls are having sex because they want the boy to like them, they're trying to do what it takes to win love.

    I do believe the argument for more interaction with parents, more family meals has a lot to it, not in the sense of children needing supervision but in the sense of needing love, comfort and security to help them build their self-esteem and a strong emotional basis from which to make decisions about who they sleep with, how they protect themselves and whether creating a new human being to love them is really the only way they can make themselves feel complete.

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  • 33. At 2:46pm on 28 Mar 2009, RomeStu wrote:

    33 potles

    Your comments speak volumes of a giant hole in the fabric of our society.

    The answers to how to fill that hole elude me, but we must start with education, and then with a little more control over the sort of drivel that goes out on TV and the media.

    (OMG I sound like my father!!!)

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  • 34. At 1:00pm on 29 Mar 2009, Jules wrote:

    There are a number of other cultural differences between the UK and the other countries on the list that may explain some of the differenxes observed.

    First of all, note that the accuracy of the survey of how many 15-year-olds have had sex is quite questionable; we have little reason to believe that most of the respondents were honest. In Britain, where as we've seen here before, self-esteem is substantially lower than many other european countries, respondents may be more inclined to exaggerate their experience than elsewhere.

    WRT the prevalence of teen pregnancies, we must bear in mind a few effects. As another commenter noted, we have rather substantial benefits for young parents in this country, and with above-average unemployment, those will look attractive. Further to this, there is a culture among some sections of the teenage population that sees a baby almost as a fashion accessory; having one is the gateway between being a child and being an adult. This culture probably places a serious skew on the statistics.

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  • 35. At 1:01pm on 29 Mar 2009, intrepidexpat wrote:

    I feel strongly that, no matter how “normal” or “not having the right answers” we feel, we parents have huge responsibilities and perhaps the most important are:

    - loving our children
    - enjoying being with our children

    So yes, we parents should eat with our children/teenagers – and talk to them and listen to them and enjoy their company.

    And if you find yourself saying, “Yes, but they’re teenagers. I’d rather not, thank you,” then grit your teeth and do it anyway. Teenagers are similar to toddlers – when they’re at their grottiest, they’re really saying, “Does anyone really love me?” They are all struggling with self-esteem. They won’t thank you for it, but do it anyway. There’s plenty to appreciate about teenagers – caustic outlook on life, for one thing, stop you (as parent) thinking too much of yourself, for another!

    It seems a lot of teenagers who will be young mothers and fathers in a year’s time are asking themselves questions like, “Does anyone love me?”, “What’s the point, anyway?” and “Is there anything to look forward to in life?” Loving them and enjoying their company helps them answer these questions postively– and the politicians can’t help us with this, so we’d better start doing it ourselves!

    As has been said in previous comments, in countries like Italy people seem to socialise in mixed age groups far more than we do in Britain. I wonder if we could take a leaf out of their book and give our children more friends and acquaintances of all ages?

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  • 36. At 4:28pm on 29 Mar 2009, jamiew1988 wrote:

    Firstly, I am not a parent, and not likely to be for a couple of years at least.

    However there's a girl I know of because she the ex of one of mates (incidentally, who I know hasn't had sexual relations with her) who has had sex at 12/13, because she got drunk, and had sex.

    It noticeable, her parents are divorced, she lives with her Mum, or seems incapable of maintaining a stable relationship. I also know a lot of her friends are not virgins either. Also with this girl, shes only 14 now, and when shes get tense, she threatens to throw the girl out at 16.

    I suspect, if you do your research you will find heavy links betweens things like divorces and girls that have had sex. I also would interested to see a breakdown of areas in the UK which have the highest teen pregnancy rate.

    Fact of the matter is, I say a few things I have generally observed

    Firstly, quality of parenting varies greatly between different parents and there quite a few girls in the UK who have a very good attitude to sex, but those girls seem to have very loving caring parents

    I think the exact in and outs of our high teenage pregnancy rates are quite complex, but I will tell you now, the more responsibly, and the more loving a parent is, the less likely a child is to have sex. I also think parents who are clearly not loving and caring should be allowed to look after children, but I don't think actions should stop there. The exact way to judge is something one has got to be very careful off, but i think you will find it would go a long way to sorting some social.

    Other thing I needs to be dealt is media programming that encourages selfish behaviour!

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  • 37. At 6:23pm on 29 Mar 2009, FatPeace - A Promise to Heather wrote:

    I don't know what the answer is but the fact that we now live in a country where abortion is to be actively promoted on primetime TV and calls to legalise drugs grow ever louder, yet the mere mention of cheeseburgers is decried as irresponsible and calls to ban chocolate abound is all evidence of a seriously messed-up sense of priorities amongst medics and the wider populace. I've always leaned more toward the Left on issues of social policy but this disconnect amongst progressives between claiming to respect the rights of individuals to choose on certain issues, whilst demanding heavy regulation of other matters 'for our own good' remains a source of confusion.

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  • 38. At 8:32pm on 29 Mar 2009, DeniseCullum222 wrote:

    So it is only young women who get pregnant no it is not, once when women got pregnant the church stepped in and took the child and kept the mother so that she could pay for her sins the man was let go like the church men that rape or molest the woman is blamed, many of the pro life lot think that its okay for the mother to die as long as the baby lives so the media wants to make money out of informing women were to go for help well it is her body not anyone else and not the church's and it is totally up to her what she does with it. How many men get very infected do we have graphs for that? No do we demand that men have injections for cancer yet cervical cancer comes from men who do not know how to clean themselves is this part of sexual education. Or why men refuse to wear condoms this is not new? should they not be made to lean how and why? This Govenment interference is partly to do with the British strangeness towards sex like drinking. It takes two to make one pregnant yet all we hear about is young girls as if they lead silly men astray and if we could only stop them from getting pregnant we could what? These women who get pregnant to upset society what class do they come from I bet you will not hear about the middle class or upper class young girls getting pregnant because they are sexually educated or are driven to a clinic by both parents who do not want their friends talking, double standards and if you interview people they will always tell you want you want to hear. A woman's body belongs to her and not to the born again fruit cakes of this country who are paid by the Govenment to harass others. They should ask why people allow their children to go to war and then moan about them being killed.

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  • 39. At 5:11pm on 30 Mar 2009, Pyrrhowave wrote:

    Does anyone know of any actual evidence (the result of proper scientific investigation) which shows what the numbers are of teenagers who are deliberately getting pregnant in order to get housing/benefits?

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  • 40. At 00:02am on 31 Mar 2009, tarquin wrote:

    36 jamiew1988

    It is true there is a broad trend showing single-parent families faring worse (more crimes etc)

    Unfortunately this is over-simplistic and people often fear mentioning that a lot has to do with background and area - I know many 'middle class' people who have divorced parents and have fared fine, I myself had a single mother, which is partly why it irks at me so much when politicians use it

    Contrast that to my friends who live in a pretty rough area - the husband is the only adult male on the whole street (probably 20 houses), he is constantly being asked to do physical things by the lone teenage mothers and fatherless kids - it's quite bizarre

    This is why I'll never support Cameron's plans on marriage and 'broken society' - it's over simplistic and penalises those of us who have thrown away social convention and do just fine - nonsense to appeal to right-wingers

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  • 41. At 08:55am on 31 Mar 2009, mwrivs wrote:

    Mark. Just commenting on your the analysis; not the substance.

    I'm sure there is an inherent relationship between the amount of time that teenagers spend away from their home in the evening and the likelihood that they might have sex.

    However, a less biased look at the statistics will reveal that in Germany (relative to UK)despite being significantly less likely to spend the evening with friends and it being very a third more likely that they will eat a meal with their parents, the likelihood of sex is still high. (See also Sweden).

    How might we explain this? Perhaps a look at working hours of parents and the school hours of children might be worthwhile: Most Germans start work early and finish early. German schools start early and finish early too. Teenagers often spend time at each other's houses in the early afternoon - when their parents are not there.

    So trying to establish the likelihood of sex by looking at whether they have a meal with their parents - generally early at 1830 - 1900 - or whether they spend the evening out - they generally have enough homework to do and have to get up early - is looking in the wrong place.

    I suggest you look in to these cultural and societal differences in order to strengthen your comparative analysis.

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  • 42. At 2:30pm on 31 Mar 2009, carlyrosa wrote:

    Sadly another factor is some young people see pregnancy as a short cut to the top of the housing list or way to be provided with accommodation away from home.

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  • 43. At 5:26pm on 31 Mar 2009, FatPeace - A Promise to Heather wrote:

    Carlyrosa (#42) agreed - every young person should have the opportunity of a council house at a reasonable rent rather than the choice of mortgaging themselves up to the eyeballs (if they can even get a mortgage), living in some privately rented basement bedsit where the landlord gets to decide what colour the walls are and by how much the rent will get jacked up each year, or spending the supposed best years of their lives getting under their parents' feet in the family home.

    Back in 2004 I tried to get on the 3+ year waiting list for a council property in my home town, a place where the average house price was at that point about 15x average wage, and was told that because I was a man without kids I could basically forget ever accruing enough 'points' for even the crummiest, 'difficult-to-let' flats.

    I understand that unless we want a return to the Dickensian disregard for human life, society has to make some provision for lone parents but the current system is clearly not working.

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  • 44. At 10:19am on 01 Apr 2009, StratfordBlade wrote:

    Very good points in this article, boiling down to one point. To a greater extent parenting has been handed over to the 'authorities' by many parents in this country. Thus, sex and sex education has a plethoria of information and explanation on the 'how', but the 'why' is avoided like the proverbial plague. Moral judgements are not the remit og Government at any level so the 'how' is saturated to compensate and the 'why' totally parched. Mark Easton is right to point the finger towards the lack of family life as this is where the 'why' is explored, explained and worked out. Not over a couple of meals, or a night-in but from infancy on a regular basis abd for this to happen children, childhood and family have to be seen as valuable. The figures for Italy in comparison to this country bear out much of my opinion about this country, we do not value children, childhood and family anywhere near as highly as others do, starkly so with the Italians.

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  • 45. At 11:10am on 01 Apr 2009, anup_aj wrote:

    Its funny that Mark is sounding like "Pope"! (Which is purely unintentional I suppose!)
    On a serious note, A WONDERFUL article and analysis to go behind a problem which doesn't seem to have an easy solution.

    My take on this one (as everyone seems to have one!)
    1. The most important contribution a parent could make in their kids's lives is not money (that's outdated)OR time and attention (going, going....gone!)but in my opinion is an "Idol". That is, somebody they could look upto and say, I want to be like him/her. Kids learn mostly by what they see around them and not by what they are taught. That's why we dont need to teach them preliminary education and mannerism, they just absorb it like a sponge. So, if they would see their parents not doing anything the whole day, watching television, going for takeaways, getting drunk and last but not the least, being indiscriminate about their sexual habits, its not a rocket science what would they learn and go on to practice. On the other hand, what moral right these parents would have to teach so called "good habits". Same goes for the teachers partly. In the recent news there is an apt example of a PE teacher to pose in a thong for a modelling website. technically speaking there is nothing wrong in trying to pursue a glamorous career for a better money. But how the teachers like her would be able to create a good role model among students and enforce discipline.
    Alas, there are no studies which could measure young person's respect for their older generation and that would have helped....
    2. Which also means that parenting is not an easy "Profession" to be. When mums tell me that they are unemployed, I tell them, wrong, you are "full time mum". Only wish that they themselves could understand it. the benefits are simply your wages (if you became mum for that reason, then).

    A friend of mine said that the authority to tell a teenager off comes after years of hard work and a disciplined lifestyle and not simply because you went through labour pains for few days.

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  • 46. At 11:17am on 01 Apr 2009, anup_aj wrote:

    Also, the whole system of benefits has gone horribly wrong. Its no secret that its an incentive for motherhood and not the other way around (i.e. mothers getting rewarded for showing motherly qualities).
    If one went for a baby looking for livelihood, then how do you expect you get a good disciplined lifestyle out of the product as that was never the intention in the first place.
    Child poverty is being replaced with moral poverty....

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  • 47. At 12:45pm on 01 Apr 2009, brightstrikealight wrote:

    Although well-meant, this is a typical case of anecdotal correlation being confused with causality. One might just as well say, speaking French cuts teenage pregnancy.

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  • 48. At 3:07pm on 01 Apr 2009, James willcocks wrote:

    I live in Germany where I rarely see teens with children and those that do have children young are usually frowned upon. That is not to say it does not happen; it does. There is, however, a different attitude here and imo the family unit is much stronger than in the UK. I would be interested to see the stats for teen pregnancys divided up for the north and south of the UK. I have a British friend here who comes from Sheffield and left the UK as a graduate looking for a better life. She has told me in detail about the lives of her friends and their expectations. She told me that most of them had children before 21 and it is largely viewed as a ticket to 'free' accomodation and cash on the hip from the state. She explained some of her friends were amazed she chose not to have kids - amazed she has chosen to find work... Although she also tells me she is earning twice what she would have been earning in the UK and that some of her 'baby career' friends received more in benefits than her net income. Says a lot to me...
    We are also halfway through watching the 'Shameless' TV series and she notes, with a hint of disgust, that it is a fair (although somewhat extreme) depiction of parts of the UK.

    Great article, but I thought I would highlight the other half of the teem preg. story - children who chose to have children as a lifestyle choice. That is down to poor education and an over generous welfare state.

    RE comment 45 - SPOT ON. My dad was my 'idol' and someone i both feared and respected. I had a great fear of dissapointing him (still to this day) and that has guided me to becomming a 'well adjusted' & professional adult.

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  • 49. At 09:41am on 02 Apr 2009, TalkativeChap wrote:

    What gets me is that surveys show that kids are spending very little time with their parents, but at the same time we get reports that kids are spending very little time in the countryside as parents will not let them out on their own. To me the contradictions sum up the situation parents do not have a clue what is going on in their own kids lives because they are to busy caring about themselves. It is no wonder teens get pregnant, maybe in a way they are just looking for somebody to care for them.

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  • 50. At 10:18am on 02 Apr 2009, virtuousNettys wrote:

    I have observed this issue as a German living in Wales. When I grew up, I had a nice / beautiful room. We lived in a village. My friends could come and stay with me there. After school, my friends had lunch with me. There was enough to do. I find it disgusting to eat in front of the TV as a habit - occasionally (twice a month), I would say fine. Family meals and happier lives in general could prevent these early pregnancies. In Wales, a friend once told me - "there's nothing much to do for young people - just sex and alcohol, even drugs". The parents have daily problems. Often, teenagers have nothing to look forward to. Sex issues are treated more as a laughing matter. In Germany, teenagers enjoy sauna and wellness. It is just different!

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  • 51. At 08:19am on 03 Apr 2009, timetostop wrote:

    This is now just a joke!!!
    How do you stop a reoccuring problem: a get out of jail free card ofcourse, give ample oppertunities to reduce young potential parents taking responsibility for their actions for having unprotectedd sex; Fantastic idea!! that'll teach them. "you have found your self pregnant; not to worry come and have an many times as you like"!!!

    Perhaps we should take a reality check?

    Maybe if and when a young girl becomes pregnant she should concsider all her options-adoption for example? Perhaps narrow minded adults should be there fot their children and those children who approach them with an unexpected pregnancy!! Perhaps, they should stop patronising them, be supportive to young mums; give them the same amount of support and respect you would to a younger friend who has had a fright and found out that they are pregnant.

    THEN!! Perhaps teenagers may feel more responsible for their actions; see their future in a differnet but positive light, not feel that those older than them treat them and their situation less humainly!!

    Numerous times I have hered that those who found themselves pregnant had an abortion through feeling shamed and scaredof telling their parents/ guardians, or what other people would think of them, or the discrimination they had witnessed towards other people in a similar situation. They now live wih the guilt of not being stronger to ignore those other people's illcomments, stronger and confident and not scared to speak to those who were responsible for their well being or even to ignore their carers concern for their own 'reputation' being tainted by the young pregnancy!!

    Care for those who do decide to take responsibility for their unborn child (whether looking after the baby once bornm or giving it a life with some one else) have been discrimintaed by nurses, doctors and auxillary nurses when in hospital because "they're all the same" or at least percieved as the same!!! Yet, a 32 year old (regardless of their stte of mind, medical status or life style) is treated with more respect, not mocked and LISTENED to!!!!

    WAKE UP UK!!!

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  • 52. At 09:45am on 08 Apr 2009, southterry wrote:

    I was 17 when I had my son, and we were using condoms, they aren't 100% effective. The best way in my opinion is for parents to talk to their children more openly. I have no problem answering his questions, and this will not change as he gets older. We regularly find time to sit down with him to talk to him about things we think he may need to know about. We will make it clear that the best way to enjoy sex is when both people are ready, have a steady relationship, and they are using the pill(etc) and a condom. I have the same feelings about teaching him about drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, I will explain things honestly, and tell him both sides of using substances as well as the dangers and criminal problems.

    Parents who don't feel comfortable explaining these things should be offered free confidential advice and given leaflets to help them talk things through. Family time is important in our busy lifestyles. Parents who can't be bothered to teach their own children should not have them. Obviously if a family has religious values they could explain these at the same time as talking about sexual health. We shouldn't be teaching kids family values outside of the family.

    School sexual health is important for kids who can't learn from home, but our failing is we think that is all our children and young adults need. The best people to teach their children about sex, drugs and finances amongst other things are the people they live with, their family. Family time can be eating a meal together, but it can also be spending a few evenings a week together, maybe out bowling or at a local restaurant/cafe, outside in a park or just relaxing on the sofa with some popcorn and a cheap movie. We ignore our children, and we are even worse to our teenagers.

    So, parents, we need to be honest with our kids. Not just about condoms but the pill, relationships, love, marriage, peer pressure, rape, abuse, bisexuality, gay men&women, transgendered people, transvestites, risks of being drunk, how to look after a condom so it doesn't get damaged, drug use, prostitution, tobacco and everything else that we know. We need to stop being embarrassed about talking to a child about something we have experienced or something we have learned about ourselves.

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  • 53. At 2:09pm on 10 Apr 2009, Shashlik wrote:

    It's all about choices and it starts in the home and with the parents. Children need to be guided,protected,encouraged,engaged in family issues, given good advice and nurtured. I have no problem with single parents, however boys do need a firm guiding hand, father, partner,whatever, girls need more protection as they potentially have more to lose when they are young.
    Choices are, have sex or not, get pregnant, or use protection, have a baby or an abortion, don't get married, get married, study get a good job, stay on the social and live a poor life on benefits. Bring children up the same way with the same idea as your own, OR, don't have unprotected sex until you feel like it's time for a baby, get a good education and go to university, meet someone you love and get married, have a baby, bring your child up with the same values as your own. Life goes on and the human race gets stronger and stronger.
    It's not really difficult to understand is it. Children are a direct reflection of their parents in many many ways. If we have slob kids it's usually because the parents are slobs. I say usually but not always. My children always sat at the table to eat with the family as I did when I was a child, my father insisted on it. It's not about money, we had none, it's about good parents. Children having children is so sad and it reflects parental values. Not the government, not Mrs Thatcher, not the school, not the friends they hang about with, it's all down to parental control. More backbone, more spine, more acceptance of responsibility and less thinking someone else is to blame.

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  • 54. At 4:47pm on 11 Apr 2009, rogertheterrible wrote:

    Yes, yes and yes! Our children are a direct result of how we bring them up. Through love, care and example. They will in their teens do and say most hurtful things to us parents, but they will also love us and we will never feel we've done enough or have done the best for them. I know I have been selfish, that I have worked long hours and never given enough time to my daughter. My wife berates me and our daughter calls us both 'losers' at times. I tell her I've done my best to keep a roof over her head and food on the table, remaining an honest and hard working man.

    I worry that the world out there will bedazzle her and she'll be sucked in by its fake notions of happiness. Then I am surprised. She's only seventeen, but she's got things weighed up. She went to a club in Portsmouth recently (footballer type hang out) with a boy who's just a friend. He's friendly with the thirtysomething owners so she sat at the table with these bling-nobility who had their girlfriends/hangers on with them. They knew my daughter was different, one of the girls saw how these guys were interested and even tried to kiss my daughter as if to increase her own ludeness. I'm proud my daughter saw through these people and rejects the mantra of 'get rich at any price'. Now in the same way she's well aware of girls that have teen pregnancies, or have had abortions and that had sex since they were in their young teens. I know she's had relationships, but I'm sure they were not 'fully' sexual and she's been hurt emotionally by them. Let's face it a boy of fourteen thinks as much about sex as he does his games console! Why should they settle down? We can't stop him using his penis, after all that's his programing.

    So I'm faced with that and tell my daughter and pray she doesn't get drunk in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the wrong emotional state. She knows I won't murder her if she did get pregnant, but it's not for me it's her. The first thing I taught her after to tie her shoe lace and tell the time was that to love someone else you must love yourself first, but that true love comes through being selfless not selfish. These all are all little conversations - on the way to school and college in the car. We hardly dine as a family now as we seem to all have different tastes in viewing or recreational pursuit in the evening. I knows its wrong, but that's the modern family. So what have I got right so far? Well looking at the stats and the false media world I have no idea. I am thankful only in that the little time my wife and I have had to raise our daughter our beliefs and hard working example has got through, to balance things out. In some ways I wish I could arrrange her marriage, but neither do I have that religeon or come from such a class. I will have to rely on love and all its permutations.

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  • 55. At 05:42am on 15 Apr 2009, Shashlik wrote:

    54 rogertheterrible
    Yes spoken by a father who cares about his children. The most difficult thing in life is to bring up children. They are watching everything we do and only listen to 20% of what we say. We teach by example whether we like it or not, they are watching how we behave rather than how we tell them to behave.
    How can we teach children not to smoke if we ourselves are smokers? how can we teach them the true values in life if we ourselves ignore them? How can we teach them about love and respect if we show none. They are the walking shadows of us, they learn from our behavior and not from how we try and guide them.
    My children all have masters degrees from good Universities, though they have far more qualifications than I will ever have, they knew how passionate I was about education and so I guided them towards it. I even sold my house and purchased a house far more expensive than what I thought I could afford at that time, just so that my kids would take advantage of the better school catchment area. It certainly worked and done the trick, because their peer pressure was also guiding them towards higher achievements in life. Peer pressure plays a massive role in a child's development. They identify with what they think are the people who are the same as them. If they hang around with losers then there is a good chance they will end up a loser. If however they associate themselves with high achievers then they will also try harder at school. It's ALL the parents responsibility to create the environment of their choice and where they live so that the big picture can play out.

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  • 56. At 4:39pm on 16 Apr 2009, Woolfbane wrote:

    The only fair system would be to give all young teenagers a reversible sterilisation. The de-motivated, feckless, illiterate, disorganised (and the ones who didn't want children anyway) would never get round to having a reversal: the abortion rate would plummet, as would the number of teenage births and the birthrate generally. This probably sounds drastic, but there is no longer any approbrium attached to the single mother which has, in the long run, not been in the interests of young girls of low aspriation and low educational attainment. They deserve better than a lifetime of chips and Corrie in a damp council flat. Unfortunately, "motherhood" is generally considered to be "a good thing" (mainly by the middle classes and celebrities who can afford to do it in some style), which is highly debatable given that, only a little further down the social ladder, parents of both sexes experience greater financial hardship and worse health over their lifetimes than non-parents, as a direct result of parenthood.

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  • 57. At 8:57pm on 20 Apr 2009, onethatknows wrote:

    I have read, with interest, some of the most defensive, prescriptive, demoralising, disempowering, negative, patronising and dehumanising scripts ever written. If I were a young woman reading this, I would be totally shocked at how adults (allegedly) percieve me. I would be disappointed that because my mum works all hours and can't spend time with me I am from a dysfunctional family and I have no aspirations other to get pregnant and live in a council house - and there is nothing wrong with living in rented accommodation. Sex is still a taboo subject with teens and you tell me what adult, let alone teenager would learn from knowing about relationships from adults when the divorce rates are souring in the over 50's (as is the rate of STI's funnily enough - source data from - what kind of role model we have to present to young people is not very clear to me at all.

    I note with interest that the emphasis in most scripts is geared towards the female gender. Clearly some people forget what it takes to make baby in the first place. Young women have the added responsibility of caring for a child all its life regardless of whether the father remains on the scene. I agree all children need a mother and father, but just look at the facts everywhere. Divorce rates increasing, teenage drinking is becoming more open. I used spend 3-5 nights away from home on average because I was doing sports and hobbies, and yes with my friends - male and female god forbid! (we didn't have a car - had to walk).

    What would be really good is if people stopped criticing children, blaming the parents and saying what people should do i.e. stop benefits for under 16's (fact is they can't claim them until they are 16 plus and then they are limited) and blog some contacts and information. Clearly some writers on this blog don't really know the true extent of increasing poverty, worklessness, debt and poeple having sex. All of them are on the increase including condoms sales in this time of austerity(

    And by the way, it is a complete myth that young girls get pregnant just to get a council house. Young girls get pregnant thinking that they can get all sorts of benefits, which their parents probably get (they could be third generation worklessness, or first generation unlucky and thoughtless about protection with sex). Or, they get pregnant for a host of reasons. To remove benefits is like saying someone who drinks, smokes, plays football, rides horse etc.. they will not get treatment on the NHS because they have done it to themselves. The social care and health provision is a safety net for the vulnerable - children are vulnerable. The housing queues are growing, mortgage repossession are rising especially in the Midlands, the Government cash for new building won't input for another 2/3 years so having a child will not save you from homelessness or get you home at any age!!!

    The role of women (since the 60's and 70's, to define pre- 80's) today is to be the breadwinner, co-earner, primary carer, nurterer, teacher and mentor to young boys and girls which is an added pressure given the number of absent fathers and single households increasing year on year (not a criticism, just stating fact). I would be interested to see the corrolation of the fgiures for children spending time with their friends and the habits of their parent(s), in addition when parents work or mums work late without the Father being around the guilt to do it all and have everything i.e. career, great bloke, nice life, great kids wears you out. It is the social infrastructure does not work, not the children.

    Pass the message on.

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