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FOR RELEASE: May 13, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Oklahoma’s Teen Birth Rate Decreasing, But Remains
Higher Than National Rate
May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

Whatever that “special talk” is called – the birds and the bees, the facts of life, or sex education – the conversation is sometimes a challenge for parents and their children. It also is one of the most important.

“The fundamental message to parents is to talk early, talk often and stay involved with their children,” said James Allen, coordinator of the Adolescent Health Program at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “We know that teens want very much for their parents to have open and honest conversations with them about these topics. But talking is not enough. Parents must stay involved in the lives of their adolescents, and schools and communities must take an active role in providing positive activities and influential messages for young people.”

Oklahoma statistics show that the birth rate for females age 15 to 19 in 2002 was 57.6 births per 1,000 females, compared to the 2002 national birth rate of 43 births per 1,000 for the same age group. During this time, Oklahoma ranked 8th highest in the nation in teen births for females age 15 to 19. About two-thirds of the 7,415 babies born to Oklahoma teens were to those ages 18 to 19.

“State teen birth rates are the lowest they have been in years but they have not decreased to the national average. More must be done to educate parents of teens and teenagers about pregnancy prevention in order to achieve long lasting improvements,” said Allen. “Our own evidence shows us that we can have some success if we provide young people with the skills they need to stand up to peer pressure and change unhealthy attitudes about early sexual involvement. This is what our Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Projects are all about.”

Health officials remind communities that the consequences of teen childbearing are shouldered not just by the teens and their families but also by society as a whole in increased costs in education, healthcare and welfare benefits. Some of the consequences of teen child bearing are:

  • 70 percent of teen moms drop out of high school compared to only 24 percent of women who delay childbearing until age 20 or 21.
  • Teen moms are three times more likely to live in poverty than moms who delay childbearing until after age 20.
  • Mothers who had their first child at age 17 or younger are four times more likely to be victims of physical violence than women who wait until at least age 20 to have their first child.
  • Children of adolescent females are more likely to be born prematurely and 50 percent more likely to be low-birth weight babies due to inadequate prenatal and medical care.
  • Daughters of adolescent females are 83 percent more likely themselves to become mothers before age 18.
  • Sons of adolescent females are 2.7 times more likely to be incarcerated sometime during their life than sons of mothers who delayed childbearing until their twenties.

“Parents, grandparents, and caregivers need to talk to teens often about sexuality, drugs and tobacco use and if they are uncomfortable, they can call us for guidance on ways to approach these topics. Parents should take an active role in watching what their children are doing and who is influencing their behavior so they can intervene to help them make good decisions about their lives,” Allen said.

To find out about teen pregnancy prevention programs in your area or how to get a program started, call the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Adolescent Health Coordinator, James Allen, at 405/ 271-4471.

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