Teenage Pregnancy Prevention and Adolescents' Sexual Outcomes: An Experiential Approach

By Somers, Cheryl L. | American Secondary Education, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Teenage Pregnancy Prevention and Adolescents' Sexual Outcomes: An Experiential Approach


Somers, Cheryl L., American Secondary Education


ABSTRACT

This study evaluates the effectiveness of an experiential approach to teen pregnancy (TP) prevention called "Baby Think It Over," a computerized infant simulator, on adolescents' attitudes and behaviors regarding teen pregnancy and sexuality. Recently, a more realistic model called "Real Care Baby" was developed. The small amount of research on the effectiveness of the original program yielded mixed results. Participants were experimental (n=133) and comparison (n=116) groups of primarily white, middle class, suburban high school students. Multivariate analyses revealed no overall effect, but univariate, correlational, and narrative analyses suggested several positive outcomes. Theoretical implications for experiential approaches are discussed. Research and practice applications are emphasized.

INTRODUCTION

HISTORY AND GOALS OF BABY THINK IT OVER

"Baby Think It Over" (BTIO) is a program designed to create a realistic experience of the responsibility and burden involved with infant care. The original model is a computerized baby that was engineered to simulate typical unpredictable infant behavior, primarily by crying at intervals and for durations that are unpredictable. When the baby cries, the student must hold a key in the baby's back until the crying ends. The program (created, manufactured, and sold by BTIO Educational Products, Inc., formerly Baby Think It Over, Inc., in Wisconsin) is continually increasing in popularity among educators. According to the company, the program is currently in use in all 50 states and internationally, and the simulators have been used by more than 1 million students. Schools are the most common place in which the program is used, although it is also used in other settings. The goal of the program is to create a lasting impression on both teen women and men of the personal sacrifice and challenges required of new parents. The idea for this program was born out of the flour sack- and egg-baby approaches to teen pregnancy prevention.

THEORETICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Theoretically, there is reason to expect that an experiential approach to teenage pregnancy prevention would be effective. For example, according to the Optimistic Bias approach (Weinstein, 1980), when a person chooses to engage in a behavior known to entail risks, he/she tends to justify engaging in the behavior by underestimating the possibility of incurring negative effects. An experiential approach seems likely to have an effect because it provides a first-hand demonstration of reality that will lead teens to underestimate that reality to a lesser degree. The adolescent's typical perception, especially in early and middle adolescence, that negative outcomes are not likely to happen to him/her may be substantially reduced by experiential approaches.

Cognitive development is a key theoretical consideration relevant to this experiential approach (Inhelder & Piaget, 1958,1969; Miller, 1993). Despite criticisms of some aspects of Piaget's theory, his foundations in the order of succession in knowledge acquisition prevail. Borrowing from biological models, Piaget proposed that knowledge and cognition also develop in similarly universal ways. Although some adolescents start to experiment with abstract and hypothetical reasoning skills, most still tend to be more concrete than abstract, especially during early and middle adolescence. Many do not yet systematically formulate hypotheses and test these out against reality. Thus, they may not systematically formulate and test hypotheses against reality with concepts like parenting, pregnancy (including the probabilities associated with conception), and child rearing, which are relatively abstract and intangible. Adolescents are less likely to identify with them if presented in traditional lecture formats in which visualization, perspective taking, and so on, are necessary.

Cognitive limitations temporarily experienced by adolescents, namely adolescent egocentrism, are also likely to contribute to their less than perfect reasoning. …

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