A Summary of the Findings from the National Omnibus Survey Questions about Teen Pregnancy

Conducted for the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy by Princeton Survey Research Associates.

Released May 2, 1997

An Introductory Note from the National Campaign

This survey shows that most Americans believe that high school-age teens should not be sexually active, and a vast majority believe that it is society’s responsibility to promote a strong abstinence message to teens. At the same time, most Americans also believe that teens who are sexually active should have access to contraception. As such, it is evident that Americans have a complex view of the complicated problem of teen pregnancy. These findings support the conclusion that Americans are likely to find a variety of approaches to reducing teen pregnancy acceptable -- not just one or two. In truth, there is enough work to be done on this problem for many perspectives to be accommodated.

At the same time, however, many adults and teens are unclear about the magnitude of the teen pregnancy problem in the United States; few know that approximately 40% of teen girls become pregnant before they turn 20.The National Campaign hopes to help educate the public about the extent and consequences of teen pregnancy with its new report, Whatever Happened to Childhood? The Problem of Teen Pregnancy in the United States

The Summary of the Survey Findings

This report summarizes the findings from an omnibus survey of adults aged 18 or older and teenagers aged 12 to 17 about topics related to teen pregnancy. This nationwide representative survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates on behalf of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The goal of the survey was to ascertain the public’s basic perceptions and attitudes about sexual activity and pregnancy among teenagers by asking four questions. The attached appendix contains the actual polling questions, annotated with results based on total respondents, and the demographic characteristics of each sample.

Many Americans say teens should not be sexually active, even if they take precautions against STDs and pregnancy (see Appendix, Question 2)

A vast majority of the public believes that it is important for society to encourage teenagers to practice abstinence (See Appendix, Question 3) Even though the majority of adults do not think teenagers should be sexually active, most also say teens who are engaged in sexual activity should have access to contraception (see Appendix, Question 4). Most Americans have misperceptions about the number of teenage girls in the United States who become pregnant before age 20 (see Appendix, Question 1). [Statistics show that approximately four in ten girls are estimated to become pregnant before age 20.1]

1. National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy analysis of Henshaw, Stanley K., "U.S. Teenage Pregnancy Statistics," The Alan Guttmacher Institute, May 1996; Forrest, Jacqueline "Proportion of U.S. Women Ever Pregnant Before Age 20." The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1986 (unpublished). Note: This is an estimate based in part on assumptions about the number of repeat pregnancies that occur among teens which can occur either because of multiple abortions (including miscarriages) or because of multiple births, or because of some combination of the two. As new or better data become available, the Campaign intends to update this estimate.

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