Can Faith Prevent Teen Pregnancy?

It may surprise many parents and other adults to learn they are wrong — really wrong — about teens.

When it comes to discussions of teen culture, teen sexual culture in particular, many adults shake their heads in resignation and wonder where things went off the rails. Sexualized media, parents who are not parental, and a general coarsening of the culture overall are usually fingered as the culprits for a generation gone wrong. Simply put, for many adults, teen culture is little more than a blur or bare midriffs — a riot of raunch.

That is why it may surprise many parents and other adults to learn they are wrong — really wrong — about teens. For some time now, teen sexual culture can be fairly characterized by two words: increasingly responsible. In fact, one of the nation’s great success stories of the past two decades has been the truly extraordinary declines in teen pregnancy (down 42 percent) and teen childbearing (down 49 percent). The good news is found in all 50 states and every racial/ethnic group — all have made significant progress.

This profound change in the culture remains the greatest story never told. In a recent national survey commissioned by my group, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, just 18 percent of adults in the U.S. believed that the teen pregnancy rate had declined over the past two decades and fully 50 percent incorrectly assumed that the rates had increased.

It may be even more surprising for adults to ponder the role that faith and individual morals and values have played. Among those teens who haven’t had sex, the primary reason they give for well not doing it is that having sex at this point in their lives is against their religion or morals, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research makes clear that religion, faith, and a strong moral sense play vital roles in protecting teens from too-early sexual activity and teen pregnancy. In particular, being connected to a religious community has been linked with a decreased risk for teen pregnancy. Moreover, a survey we released this week suggests that the majority of Americans want more from religious groups rather than less. Some 52 percent of adults and 57 percent of teens think religious leaders and groups should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy.

Esperanza, one of the largest Latino faith-based evangelical networks in the U.S., is answering the call. The group is releasing a rich set of materials at its annual National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference this week. Included are data and research on teen pregnancy and related issues, relevant Bible studies and suggested activities and ideas on how faith leaders can openly discuss topics such as sex, dating, and relationships with teens and their parents as well.

The new resource was developed by Esperanza (with our help) and will be given to all 600 attendees of the conference. Twenty faith leaders will be trained to use the new resource; in turn, they will train more than 200 additional faith leaders in major metropolitan areas nationwide.

The efforts of Esperanza and other faith leaders are critically important for another reason. Despite the remarkable progress the nation has made in preventing too-early pregnancy and parenthood, it remains the case that nearly three in ten girls in this country get pregnant by age 20. It is also true that great disparities remain: rates of teen pregnancy and childbearing among African-American and Latino teens remains far above the nation average despite the impressive strides made by both groups of young people.

What’s faith got to do with teens, love, sex and pregnancy? Quite a lot as it turns out.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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  • tony55398

    Parents seem to want schools to raise their kids.

  • PhillyJimi1

    Again it amazes me how people of faith and who also claim the moral high ground can lie to your face. How they knowingly twist facts to promote their agenda.

    The obvious fact that smacks you in your face is the states from the bible belt have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. Over all the teen pregnancy rates are lower across the board but there is a strong negative correlation that strong faith causes teen pregnancy to increase not decrease. Sarah Brown is twisting the overall down turn into a pro-religious victory. It is a shame the facts just don’t back up her agenda.

    The religious live in a reborn world of fantasy were you’re better then everyone else because you believe in Jewish zombies, talking snakes live and a virgin who had a baby. Reality is reality, facts are facts and liars are liars.

  • tony55398

    Philly believes that no one can control their sexual urges.

  • haveaheart

    “It may be even more surprising for adults to ponder the role that faith and individual morals and values have played. Among those teens who haven’t had sex, the primary reason they give for…well…not doing it is that having sex at this point in their lives is against their religion or morals, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

    The glaring omission here is the role that increased awareness and use of birth control have played in lowering the rate of teen pregnancy.

    The choice isn’t “not doing it” vs. getting pregnant. Larger numbers of teens than ever before are taking responsibility for their sexuality and using birth control to prevent pregnancy.

    While you may not think that teens SHOULD be having sex, the truth is (and always was) that they ARE having sex. So teaching the lessons of responsible birth control and STD prevention are the best tools we have to prevent teen pregnancy and the spread of venereal diseases.

    Religious people need to stop living in a fantasy world. Teenagers have sex. It’s a fact of life. Help them make it safe.

  • Rongoklunk

    As the priests in Ireland informed us several years ago – it is OK lie as long as you’re lying to protect God and His reputation. The priests see it as the only justification for lying – protecting the Church and God. In His interest anything is correct. I guess the whole point of the church would collapse if people discovered that there is nobody up there. So insisting that God exists has top priority among priests, even though the Hubble telescope has never zeroed in on Him or any of his angels, or even Heaven. Most of us know it’s the oldest scam of them all. Gods simply do not exist.

  • Rongoklunk

    How much longer can we continue believing in a great invisible skygod when everything about reality suggests he doesn’t actually exist? He’s never been seen, never been heard from, he never gets involved in anything. It’s exactly as if he doesn’t exist. So the only sensible position is that he doesn’t exist, like all the other Gods that the ancients were forever making up. If one God was invented by the ancients – they ALL were. They are by their very definition – mythical. Let us face reality. Nothing supernatural exists; there is only the real; and gods are not real.

  • leibowde84

    If by “control your sexual urges” you mean not having sex, then most people can’t control them. Why shouldn’t homosexuals have sex with each other? Do those actions offend you? If so, how come? I can understand God getting upset if you assume that certain passages in the bible are correct, but why would those actions offend you? God can judge … you shouldn’t.

  • leibowde84

    Seems like Christianity in general is a proponent of lying to protect the face of the church. The problem is that they actually believe (for some strange reason) that their man-made, human-run, imperfect institution represents the face of God in some strange way.

  • vijayk

    Faith has been working for some 2000 years while all other ideals, philosophies and so-called “good intentions” fall by the wayside. It doesn’t take a whole lot of faith though for young people to realize that that the risk of AIDS, VD, Herpes, Unwanted Pregnancy and a whole host other sexually transmitted diseases not to mention grief, heartaches etc.. is becoming way to high when compared to waiting for the right person and the right reason. To agree with God is agreeing with Love, to agree with the world is to agree with lust.

  • vijayk

    not to much longer! The weeping and gnashing of teeth is being heard around the world.

  • vijayk

    Sex is a gift from God,

  • tony55398

    I don’t care if Gays have sex, it is none of my business, but when two teens, especially the girl gives in to the guy, and it is all most always the guy who desires sex, than it becomes every ones business.

  • tony55398

    Almost always it is the girl who gives in to the boy, because the boy wants the girl to prove her love to him, the girl almost always does not have as strong of a desire for sex, etc.. We need to inform girls that sex does not equal love and girls and boys and especially boys, can find other ways to satisfy their urge. I do believe that fathers have the greatest influence on girls in this regard by the Love shown to their daughters and to their wives. Get fathers to be present and involved in the lives of their children and many of these problems would disappear, maybe not all, but most.

  • ThomasBaum


    Have you ever thought about the “fact” that if what you believe is true that you or no one else will ever know that it is true?

  • tony55398

    Putting a law out there is not enough, Love is the first requisite, the Love of fathers for their daughters is of utmost importance, as well as for their sons.

  • tony55398

    As well as for their wives.

  • jayc1

    I would believe that kids who belong to a strong religious community would be a little less likely to have sex. But, at least in some communities, they would also be less likely to protect themselves when they do have sex. And when they become adults they would be less likely to have a satisfying and mature sex life.

    But some such communities view the slight reduction in rates of sex as more important than the other issues, because for them sex is the bad thing, not the pregnancies or STDs.

  • twmatthews

    So he gave it to dogs and cats and mice and all other mammals?

  • twmatthews

    Thomas, I’m not following you. Can you elaborate?

  • twmatthews

    You must be ignoring huge swathes of the bible in order to equate god with love. I’d say petty, jealous, bigoted and boastful more than anything else.

  • itsthedax

    Faith does not prevent pregnancies. Contraception prevents pregnancies.

  • cricket44

    Exactly, Jayc1.

  • cricket44

    Tony, you rely far too much on assumption and stereotype. Libido in girls is often *just* as strong as it is in boys.

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    I have attached a renewal CSO to this email as a reference. Let me know what you think, and give me a call if you have any questions. Thanks.

  • ThomasBaum


    Some people that do not believe that there is a God, a higher power or Something to that effect, believe that there is something awaiting humans beyond their physical death.

    However, I think that Rongoklunk believes, knows as he/she says, that not only that there is no God but that there is nothing to a human being after death except that aforementioned human is “worm food” and only “worm food”.

    Therefore, this “fact” (Rongoklunk’s belief/knowledge) says that since everything about a human is wiped out, so to speak, that this human will not and can not know anything about this and since this “fact” is universal among humans than NO ONE can know this.

    However, when God’s Plan which God has had since before creation comes to Fruition, everyone will “know” this since death is not the “end all” as Rongoklunk believes/knows.

    Rongoklunk can believe this all he/she wants but can not know it here and if it were true can never know it.

  • Celeste Benson

    It’s not clear that “faith” prevents teen pregnancies. What is more likely, research suggests, is that being firmly embedded in protective religious networks (daily behavior rather than belief) protects against teen pregnancy. However, research is also quite clear that religious beliefs can contribute to ambivalence or cognitive dissonance regarding sex and thus weaken the likelihood of contraceptive use if a teen does have sex. Some evidence also suggests that religious affiliation/beliefs can reduce the likelihood of abortion — thus contributing to an unintended or unwanted birth. This seems to be particularly relevant among young evangelicals as well as non-evangelical women who live in high evangelical social contexts. Moreover, conservative religious groups in the US have been very active in recent years in trying to restrict contraceptive and abortion access for ALL women, not simply the religious. This increases the likelihood that non-religious women — whose behavior is less protected by religious beliefs or networks — will be denied rights and access. This is very dangerous.

    It is strange — and arguably irresponsible — that the National Campaign does not recognize these things.

  • BlindGirls

    Can faith prevent teen pregnancy? Worked out just swell for the Virgin Mary….

  • Proverbs3.5-6

    It is learned behavior to be alive, breathe and experience the complexity of this world and universe and not bow in reverent awe of its Author. It is mere rebellion to demand to see with one’s eyes the face of its Designer. We are too close to “see” Him, for in Him we live and move and have our being. The mere act of observing a newborn child or looking in the mirror is enough to wow any honest skeptic. One’s seething rage at the world’s injustice and calamities must be met by an equally powerful horror of finding raw evil there. The only responses possible are to either run and hide in a pseudo-self-righteous “God’s a myth, prove-it-to-me” denial or to fall on one’s face in humility, admitting one’s own responsibility for going against what we know is right, and thank Him for His patience with us, seeking to know His astounding Grace revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ. Repent and believe the good news.

  • Proverbs3.5-6

    *finding raw evil in one’s own heart*

  • Rosemary Lei, Ching Mei

    I found this article inspiriting but confusing. It writes: for the past two decades, there has been extraordinary declines in teen pregnancy all nationwide, faith and individual morals and values have played a significant role for this profound progress. If this is really the case, then how about adolescent STD infection rate? Alas, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report in February this year, placing the current number of sexually transmitted infections in the United States at 110 million. Some 20 million new cases are diagnosed each year, costing taxpayers approximately $16 billion! Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are disproportionately affected by the epidemic, accounting for half of all infections. The contrast or better to say, “contradiction” between high teens STD infection rate and falling teen pregnancy rate is really thought-provoking! Maybe we have to analyze these phenomena in depth, rather than jumping to the conclusion.

    According to Brown: the Research released from CDC states clear that religion, faith, and a strong moral sense play vital roles in protecting teens from too-early sexual activity and teen pregnancy. We must ask: can they also prevent teen STD acquisition then? If not, why there is such indiscrepency?

  • Ben Howard

    I just read this really good article on preventing second births among teenagers. Relevant stuff, check it out:… really well written.