BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two popular MTV programs about teenage pregnancy -- "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" -- were met with national debate. Critics said the shows glamorized teenage pregnancy, while supporters said they discouraged it.
A new study by an Indiana University professor suggests they're both right.
The study, which will appear in the journal Sexuality & Culture, focused on female students because of the high dropout rate associated with pregnancy among this demographic.
When the programs were under development, MTV sought the consultation of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
"The programs were developed to show young women how difficult it is to be a teen mom," said the lead author, Paul Wright, an assistant professor of telecommunications in the IU College of Arts and Sciences. "They were intended to be program-length public service announcements discouraging teen pregnancy.
"But critics said the programs sent mixed messages. My viewing of the programs suggested the same," Wright said. "On one hand, the programs do show many of the difficulties teen mothers face. But on the other hand, they sometimes seem to send the message that getting pregnant was all for the best.
"The hypothesis driving our study was that the family background of the viewer might determine whether they focused on the negatives or the positives," Wright said.
Consistent with this assumption, frequent viewers of the programs whose fathers often communicated about sex with them while they were growing up were the least likely to have recently had sex.
Conversely, frequent viewers of the programs whose fathers rarely communicated about sex with them while they were growing up were the most likely to have recently had sex.
Writing in the study, Wright added, "Fathers who communicate with daughters about sex are especially apt to talk about the negatives of premarital