Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Effectiveness of the "Baby Think It Over" Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Effectiveness of the "Baby Think It Over" Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program

Article excerpt

Preventing adolescent sexual activity has become a major, though clearly not the only, component of the school sexuality curriculum. Despite continued efforts to decrease teen-age sexual activity, more than one-half of US teens have had sexual intercourse in their lifetime, and almost one in 10 (8.3%) have had intercourse prior to age 13.[1] In addition, in 1999, of those high school students who were sexually active, 42% reported that neither they nor their partner used a condom during their last sexual intercourse.[1] This rate is down slightly from 1995 reports that 46% had not used condoms during last sexual intercourse.[2] However, the figures remain relatively high and reflect a need for prevention and intervention.

Birth rates typically are used to assess effectiveness of programs designed to reduce teen pregnancy. When assessing such programs, it is important to consider the rates of both legally terminated pregnancies and spontaneous miscarriages. The combination of these three yield teen-age pregnancy rates. For the past 20 years, US teen-agers have led and continue to lead the world in rates of pregnancy, abortions, and births.[3,4] In nations with comparable economic background and culture, the highest teen-age pregnancy rates are one-half that of the United States.[5] Explanations for high US pregnancy rates range from inadequate sexuality education to declines in morals and values[6] and sexual promiscuity.[7]

Promoting contraception use is one means advocated to prevent teen pregnancy. While this method is controversial and has been accused of promoting sexual activity, many projects claimed success in reducing sexual initiation rates among teens.[8-11] Other studies documented increased contraceptive use for those teens already sexually active.[12] Those researchers recommend caution in interpreting their findings since "stated" willingness to use contraception does not necessarily produce actual behavioral change.

Others tried to curtail teen pregnancies with what became known as the "Just Say No" campaign in which youth are taught communication skills, made aware of peer pressure techniques, and counseled in premarital sexual abstinence attitudes. Christopher and Roosa[13] tested this technique with minority adolescents of low socioeconomic status. They found that participants exposed to the intervention actually increased their sexual activity level while the controls did not.[13]

Many state and local school districts have developed sexuality education programs that attempt to decrease the teen pregnancy rate.[10,14] Although a variety of education programs are in use, few have undergone rigorous evaluation. While at this time, no single intervention has been recommended,[14] the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified "Reducing the Risk: Building Skills to Prevent Pregnancy, STDs, and HIV"[10] and "Becoming a Responsible Teen"[15] as two programs that work. "Baby Think it Over" (BTIO) is a program designed to create a realistic experience of the responsibility and burden involved with infant care. The infant is a computerized baby engineered to simulate typical unpredictable infant behavior, primarily by crying at intervals and for unpredictable durations. Students must tend to the baby using a special device until the baby ceases crying. The simulator or baby (the two manufacturer-preferred terms) was created and is sold by a Wisconsin company (Baby Think It Over, Inc.), and is becoming increasingly popular among educators. According to the manufacturer, the program is currently used in all 50 states and internationally, and more than 1 million students have used the simulators. Typically, the program is run through school systems, although it also is 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. Apparently, only a few studies have evaluated the effect of the BTIO program on teens' attitudes toward parenting. …

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