Teen Pregnancy Declines Nationally, But How About Here in Region 8?

November 16, 2004 – Posted at 5:19 p.m. CST

KENNETT -- New data released from the Centers for Disease Control says teen pregnancy is on the decline, nationwide. The birth rate for girls ages 10 to 14 has dropped to the lowest level in nearly 60 years.

In 2002, more than 7,000 babies were born to mothers between the ages 10 and 14. While that number is down, it's still shocking to hear.

"At the middle school, we've had a sixth grader have a baby...she was 11 when she got pregnant and was 12 when she had the baby," said Kennett Middle School Principal Kim Lowrey, "We've have students before that have had four children before they get out of high school."

But sex education isn't part of the curriculum in the Kennett School District.

"The district policy in Kennett is to teach abstinence. That is the sex education that we teach. We probably need an abstinence based program, but right now it's abstinence only," said Lowrey.

That education starts in the fifth grade, but in some cases, it's too little, too late.

"It's hard once a child is already sexually active to just tell them this is the only way, because they know that that's not the only way, and so it's hard to change their mind and their attitudes," said Lowrey.

Dunklin County ranks 108th out of 114 counties in the state of Missouri to children who are born to mother's without high school educations, and educators at the Kennett Middle School say that's a cycle that could continue.

"Normally they are a lower achieving students, not always, but normally, and their attendance is not very good before they get pregnant, and then once they do that's just an added reason for them to feel like they don't have to come to school," said Lowrey.

While the CDC also reports that the pregnancy rate for teens ages 15 to 17 is down 33%, it's still a problem in Region 8.

"It's a generation, a family characteristic. You'll have more than one child in a family that's have children at a young age," said Lowrey.

Younger mothers are more likely to have children with low birth rates and deformities. They are also have double the infant mortality rates than mothers ages 22 to 40.