A study by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the Guttmacher Institute, found that there has been a 10 per cent drop in contraceptive use by teenagers, between 2003 and 2007.
In addition, the experts found that the levels of sexual activity among teens remained the same, and the birth rate has increased by 5 per cent. The study also reported that black teens demonstrated the most notable decrease in the use of birth control methods. All the figures include both the rate of contraception use as well as the types of contraceptives used, as different methods vary in their effectiveness.
Between 1991 and 2003, the use of condoms by teenagers increased, whereas their use of no contraceptive method dropped, resulting in a lower risk of pregnancy and to declines in teen pregnancy and childbirth. According to the current findings, teen condom use leveled off and in some cases even went down.
The study found that the change in teen's attitude towards contraceptive use is consistent with higher rates in the teen birth rate in 2006 and 2007 as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and may be a precursor for further increases in teen pregnancies and births in 2008.
"After major improvements in teen contraceptive use in the 1990s and early 2000s, which led to significant declines in teen pregnancy, it is disheartening to see a reversal of such a positive trend," Dr. John S. Santelli of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said in a statement. Dr. Santelli added that teenagers are still having sexual intercourse, but it appears that many of them are not taking the necessary precautions in order to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
The study did not conduct an investigation on why these trends have taken place. But according to Dr. Santelli, it could be because of a number of factors, such as rising complacency about the AIDS epidemic and safe sex to protect against HIV. The expert also speculated that the recent increased focus on encouraging children to stay abstinent until they get married, rather than educating them about birth control methods, may also be at least partly to blame.
Now, this question remains highly controversial, and disputed by advocates of sex education programs that concentrate on abstinence. But the president Obama's administration has made an announcement recently that it plans to cut funding for such programs and only support those that have been proven to work. The authors of the study recommend that both the state and national levels should get involved in order to promote contraceptive use among teenagers by means of medically accurate sex education and increased access to health services. Researchers say that only this way the problem of teen pregnancy could be addressed in the most effective way.