When it comes to teenage mothers, society can be pretty judgmental. But a surprising statistic offers some insight about the ones we forget to hold accountable: the fathers.
Here is the statistic.
The stat was posted by TeenMomNYC and has been shared on Facebook more than 43,000 times. Often, our society stigmatizes teen mothers while failing to address the great number of older men contributing to the high number of teenage pregnancies, TeenMomNYC's Gloria Malone told ATTN:.
"It's important to note these things, because they're facts," Malone said via email.
"And it's past time that all men who contribute to any pregnancy, especially an unintended teenage pregnancy, are held accountable, too," Malone said.
Women are often the focus of campaigns educating women about unintended pregnancy.
"Several of the 'prevention ads' target young women and tell them to not get pregnant and how terrible ours lives will be if we do," she said. "Yet there are virtually no ads that address the grown men who are contributing to the rates of unintended pregnancies, oftentimes under conditions that are legally classified as statutory rape."
Malone has a serious point.
In 2013, an ad campaign targeting teenage pregnancies drew severe backlash after people criticized the campaign for shaming young mothers. One of the ads featured a baby crying, with text that read, "I'm twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen." According to protesters, the campaign failed to mention the racial, economic, and social factors that contribute to teenage pregnancy, Fox News reported.
A recent campaign by The Candie's Foundation, meanwhile, featured an array of celebrities speaking out against the damaging effects of teen pregnancies.
Malone knows the stigma and fear that accompanies teen mothers all too well. She had her daughter when she was 15.
"During this time, I was introduced to the very narrow lens used in the name of 'teenage pregnancy prevention' and the ways in which they make complex issues — poverty, failing public schools, inadequate education, and more — primarily 'the fault' of young girls of color," Malone told ATTN:. "The things prevention folks say about young people who experience an unintended pregnancy are super problematic, and I knew and continue to know there is more to the story than they choose to put out there about me, my family, and my peers."
Americans' narrow view of teenage pregnancy may be linked to America's overall discomfort with talking about sex.
Instead of a more comprehensive sex education that includes methods of contraception, many Americans favor abstinence-only sex education. In fact, more than 50 percent of middle schools and high schools in the U.S. stress abstinence-only education as the most effective method of pregnancy prevention, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
As a result, any sex outside of wedlock is greatly looked down upon, especially among teenagers. In a piece for Think Progress, Tara Culp-Ressler explained.
"Ultimately, since teens aren’t 'supposed' to be getting pregnant, American society assumes that the ones who do are failures. Those 'deviant' teens should never be celebrated; rather, they should be held up as a warning to dissuade other youth from following in their footsteps. But those messages are harmful for the millions of young parents who are living with the reality of caring for a child. Those youth need support, not stigmatization, as they transition into being parents. In fact, studies have shown that robust youth support programs are actually more effective at preventing unintended pregnancies than efforts to shame teens about their sexuality are."
Teenage pregnancies are on the decline in the U.S., but America still has the highest number of teen moms in the developed world. There are 24 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Europe, the average birth rate for women in that age group is 11, according to The Atlantic.