The Role of Family and Community Organizations in the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Sexual education expert Barbara Huberman gives her opinion on factors that can potentially help prevent youth from becoming pregnant before they're ready.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live's Sexual Health Auditorium. Today we are discussing The Role of Family and Community in the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy, with Barbara Huberman.

Barbara Kemp Huberman was the founder and president of the nationally recognized Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition of North Carolina from 1985 to 1995, and has been actively involved in human sexuality education and adolescent sexuality issues for over 30 years. Huberman is an expert consultant on adolescent pregnancy prevention and sexuality education, and is currently the national director of Training and Sexuality Education for Advocates for Youth, formerly the Center for Population Options, based in Washington, D.C. She is a certified sex educator and counselor, and holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Florida and a master's in education from the University of North Carolina. She has also served as the president of the National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting.

The advice provided by Barbara Huberman is hers and hers alone and does not necessarily reflect that of WebMD. If you have any medical questions about your health you should consult with your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Barbara, welcome back to WebMD.

Huberman: Thank you. It's my pleasure. It's especially good to be back on WebMD because the month of May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. It's now spread to be a nationwide campaign. We know that in the U.S., still over a million young women become pregnant each year, ages 10 to 19. We know that in most cases the young man involved is not involved in child rearing when a young teen decides to parent her child. There are many strategies and roles that the parent, the communities can play in helping the young people to delay pregnancy, and to use contraception effectively and to avoid becoming pregnant.

Moderator: What are the important concepts parents need to talk about with adolescents between ages 11 to19?

Huberman: With older children, hopefully the foundation has been laid from the beginning of the start of the family that makes parents comfortable talking about sexuality in a healthy way, that makes parents feel comfortable talking with their child about the family values and what they hope their children do in terms of sexual behavior. We also hope that parents become positive role models for their children. We know that children learn more by watching. Children are very sensitive to sense hypocrisy. If a parent is behaving in one way and tells the child, "You can't do that," or "Yeah, I did it, but it's not okay for you," a young person has a difficult time understanding why they can't do it. It's important for parents to model the behavior they expect from their children, or to clarify that they're doing this because they are adults. There are some things that you need to wait for until you are an adult. For instance, a child may want to drive at 14, but that's an adult behavior that they don't have the privilege of engaging in until they are 16 or 18. I also encourage parents if they want to have a home where risky behaviors will be kept at a minimum during the teen years, to understand the role of peers and the role of media, because teens today are getting conflicting messages from what they might hear at home, and what they see and hear in both of those places.

Moderator: What are some of the ways that parents learned their sexuality, and how does that affect how they teach their children?

Huberman: When I work with parents around this issue, most of them tell me their parents didn't talk to them, so they find it difficult to talk to their own children. Many parents express the fear that, "If I talk to my child, they'll go out and do IT," and IT means become involved in a sexual relationship. The research tells us the opposite. In the home where young people feel free to talk about sexuality with their parents, to ask questions, to be listened to without judgment, in a home where a parents says, "I don't know, but let's find out together," in a home where children are given accurate, balanced reading material, not Playboy, not porno movies, but where there are materials from the time they're small until the time they leave the home that help a young person answer questions and concerns they have about their sexuality -- For instance, one of the common concerns of 11 to 14 year olds who are entering puberty are the body changes that occur. One of the concerns is, AM I NORMAL? It's important for parents to reassure a late developer that their body will change, too, and it's okay. Maybe they'll be 14 when they get breasts, or when they get tall, or when they start their period. It's also important to help a young person to understand what relationships are about, so that if there have been conversations in the family and young people feel trusted in terms of their emotional needs being met, they're less likely to go out and try to get those needs met by engaging in an intimate relationship with someone in their age group. As teens get older, they have less interest in talking with their parents, in talking about these issues. What's very normal is to seek independence from the family and parents, and so, as a result, the peer group and media become much more influential in offering them opportunities and choices around their sexual behavior.