“Children are a gift”

“Children are a gift” August 28, 2016

By Carin Araujo, http://www.prtc.net/~carin (Stock.xchng #197853) [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

That’s the message of a facebook post from a prolife group that floated across my feed yesterday.  Specifically, it was a quote from a mother who became pregnant as a victim of rape, but spoke of love for her baby.  It went something like this:  “out of that horrible situation, God gave me this beautiful gift, a baby who gives me joy every day.”  (No, I can’t find it any longer.)

I’d seen similar items before, but I suppose it struck me more than in the past because we hosted the Cub Scout/Boy Scout family picnic yesterday.  Lots of adults, even more kids — because, as it happens, we have a number of large families in Scouting, topping out at 11 kids, though a couple of the older ones in that family must have been at home or at friends.  Why do they have so many kids?  Because they like kids.

At the same time, there was a report out on a new study that the “baby think-it-over” dolls and the high school assignment of caring for a simulated baby for a week or two, didn’t actually have the intended effect of reduced teen pregnancies, but increased their numbers instead.

I first saw this in a paywalled link, but this morning Ann Althouse provides links to accessible versions of the story, from This American Life, and from The Age.

According to This American Life,

Today, The Lancet published a study titled “Efficacy of infant simulator programmes to prevent teenage pregnancy.” It’s a controlled, randomized trial that was conducted in Australia, led by Dr. Sally Brinkman of the Telethon Kids Institute. The study looked at a total of 2,384 girls, ages 13-15. Yes, only girls. The researchers determined the number of teen pregnancies by following the girls’ health records through age 20. Health records for boys would not provide conclusive evidence of being responsible for a pregnancy. 1,267 of the girls participated in the infant simulator program (the intervention); 1,567 of the girls participated in the standard Western Australian school sex-ed curriculum, which does not include infant simulators (the control). Dr. Brinkman’s objective was to find out how effective the infant simulator program was in preventing teen pregnancy. And what she found, she said yesterday in a press briefing, is that “unfortunately and surprisingly, for us, the intervention definitely, we could say, didn’t work.”

Not only did it definitely not work, the infant simulator program seems to have increased the pregnancy rate in girls under 20 years old. “The program,” Brinkman added, “had the opposite effect we have hoped for.”

Here are the numbers:

17% of the intervention (robot babies) group had teen pregnancies; while 11% of the control group had teen pregnancies. . . .

But, she added, they did study the pregnancy termination rate in both groups. And the group that got the infant simulators had a 6% lower proportion of abortions, compared with the control group.

What do you make of this?

Isn’t it all a matter of the baseline?

If you start with a population that believes that caring for babies is easy-peasy, then, yes, a baby think-it-over will, at the margin, give some of those girls reason to pause, and the intervention will result in reduced numbers of pregnancies.

If you start with a population that’s had it drilled into them that parenting is a miserable experience only undertaken by fools, then you’d get opposite results.

Where are we at now?  Ever-increasing numbers have the latter view, that parenting is something to undertake only when circumstances are exactly right, say, in you’re late 30s, when all your ducks are in a row, and you’ve wrung all the enjoyment (travel, bar-hopping, etc.) you can out of your life, because it’s over once you have your first bout of morning sickness.  Sure, the kid eventually sleeps through the night, but you still have the burden of ensuring that this little person hears the requisite number of words per day to shape their development, is read to sufficiently often, is properly supervised in their homework, attends just the right afterschool activities, and so on, a joyless endeavor to be avoided if at all possible.

If that’s the message these teens receive through the media, through their school, through their parents, from older friends and siblings, then it stands to reason that a project that invites them to consider parenting, even with a fake baby, could take away at least some of that fear, and invite them to consider parenting as an activity that, in fact, brings joy.  Besides which, teenagers, in terms of stamina, are better able to cope with those midnight feedings than the 40-somethings who now do so.  I suppose the question is, does baby think-it-over require a budgeting exercise for parents without any education, and simulated financial worrying to go along with it?

 

By Carin Araujo, http://www.prtc.net/~carin (Stock.xchng #197853) [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

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