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I am concerned about the incident (June 2008) in Gloucester, MA where over a hundred girls, all under sixteen, made a pact to get pregnant. How does something like this happen!!! More importantly, I have two little girls, ages 10 and 12. I don't want to be completely naive and think it couldn't happen here, but honestly, how can I be certain to prevent it.


Annie Fox, M. Ed. Replied: I was stunned when I read that news story as well. The idea that some 16 year olds would "make a pact" to purposely get pregnant and raise their kids together (as if it were some friends' bonding experience) struck me as unbelievable. While it is true that the school had 4 times the number of pregnancies this year as last, it turns out that there are now some questions about whether there was an actual "pact" amongst these girls. That aside, what is indisputable is the fact that the school health clinic, which had been providing contraceptives to students who requested them, had their hospital funding curtailed this year. The medical director of the clinic and the chief nurse practitioner nurse resigned in protest of the hospital's decision not to fund the distribution of condoms. The students were doing what they had likely been doing before... only without the benefit of contraception. Of course you don't want your daughters to think it's cool to have unprotected sex and risk becoming a teen age mom. That's why you need to have ongoing, progressive, age-appropriate conversations with your girls about your expectations for their behavior. Use news stories, TV shows, books, movies as opportunities to talk about teens and sex. Be open. Be a safe person for them to ask questions of. They should have absolutely no confusion about where you stand and they have to know that they can ALWAYS talk with you without fear of reprisals. Making it crystal clear to them what your values are, regularly reinforcing those messages, and modeling the kind of behavior that reflects your values, are the best ways I know to assure that when your daughters are faced with these decisions, they will know exactly what is right for them. I hope this helps. In friendship, Annie
Posted On 2008-07-07 16:52:15
Dr. Tom Greenspon Replied: The Gloucester story is astonishing and disturbing. Each of the young women who has become pregnant probably has a different story, but I believe there are at least two major issues that all of these stories reflect. The TIME article mentions one: in the difficult economic times that communities such as Gloucester are facing, hope, security, and a feeling of importance in the world are at a premium. To an adolescent who hasn't experienced the joys and trials of parenting, having an infant who is attached to her and who looks to her for sustenance is imagined to hold the promise of responsible adulthood and of being a person who matters to someone. The other issue is our serious lack of candor and conversation about sexuality. This is a problem you can do something about, although a nationwide dialogue is truly needed. Talk with your daughters about the Gloucester story; ask them what they think about teenagers getting pregnant and why such young people might think this is a good thing. Tell them your own thoughts. This would be a golden opportunity (although such opportunities occur every day in the media) to raise the issue of sex and relationships. Explore with them what you know about sexuality, and what your thoughts are about when sex is appropriate and when it is not. Get into the technical details of birth control and sexually transmitted diseases, and talk about their right and responsibility to set their own limits about sex, regardless of what pressures they might feel from peer groups or on dates. Explore your attitudes without making judgments, be open to hearing what they have to say (and what they have heard from others) and tell them that if you don't know how to answer a particular question, you will look for it with them. You might certainly find some of this embarrassing and a bit difficult; almost everyone does. We can't stop our children from becoming sexual beings or from acting on their feelings. What we can do is help them to become knowledgeable and reflective about this part of their lives, and to have a view of the situation that goes beyond the passion of any particular moment.
Posted On 2008-06-22 11:37:25
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