Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Connecting the Dots Between Partner Violence and Pregnancy

So by this point, I am assuming that everyone has heard the buzz about the video for Eminem’s new song featuring Rihanna “Love the Way You Lie.” Admittedly, I wasn’t appalled at the video at first, although I am not appalled at much anymore due to the over-sexed desensitized culture that has become the norm of society. But after thinking about it for a few days, I realized that the video was attempting to make intimate partner violence look sexy. Not only that, but the song states “…Just gonna stand there and watch me burn / Well that’s alright because I like the way it hurts / Just gonna stand there and hear me cry / Well that’s alright because I love the way you lie.” No matter how desensitized and over-sexed media has made today’s young people, do we really want our young people to believe that intimate partner violence is okay? Or even worse, that intimate partner violence is attractive
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) in 2009, almost 10% of high school students had been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their partner in the last year before the survey (CDC, 2009).  So what is the link between intimate partner violence and unintended pregnancy? One study found that females experiencing physical and emotional abuse were less likely to use contraception compared to women who had not been abused (Williams, 2008). In addition, pregnancy coercion (coercion by male partners to become pregnant) and birth control sabotage (partner interference with contraception effectiveness) were common among females who experienced partner violence and led to an increased risk of unintended pregnancy (Miller, 2010). Females who are abused have a decreased sense of control, more specifically a decreased sense of control over their reproductive health which elevates their risk of unintended pregnancy (Miller, 2010). Various other research studies have shown the link between intimate partner violence and unintended pregnancy, as well as other negative outcomes such as multiple abortions, high levels of anxiety and depression, and increased risk for drug and alcohol abuse (Sarker, 2008).
I can certainly understand why parents and guardians would not allow young people to watch the Eminem video, believe me I don’t even want my Labrador Retriever watching it. But I would encourage you to consider this: young people have access to every media outlet possible, so it is probably safe to say that they have already seen this video. Use the video and the knowledge of intimate partner violence as it relates to negative health outcomes as talking points with young people. If you are comfortable, sit down and watch the video with a young person and then TALK to them about it. Ask them how they feel, ask them if they feel that the behaviors in the video are okay, use this video as a way for you to open up the lines of communication regarding healthy behaviors in a relationship. Behaviors that young people consider “healthy” in a relationship today are probably drastically different than what you consider a “healthy” behavior in a relationship.
Take a moment to talk to young people in your life and educate them about healthy behaviors; if you don’t, the only message that they receive about love, sex and relationships may be coming from songs by Eminem.
written by: Sarah Kershner, MPH, CHES, Research and Evaluation Specialist
contact Sarah:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2009. Surveillance Summaries, June 4, 2010. MMWR 2010; 59 (No. SS-5).
Miller, E., Decker, M., McCauley, H., Tancredi, D., Levenson, R., Waldman, J., Schoenwald, P. & Silverman, J. (2010). Pregnancy Coercion, Intimate Partner Violence and Unintended Pregnancy. Contraception, 81, 316-322.
Sarkar, N.N. (2008). The Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Women’s Reproductive Health and Pregnancy Outcome. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 28(3), 266-271.
Williams, C., Larsen, U. & McCloskey, L., (2008). Intimate Partner Violence and Women’s Contraceptive Use. Violence Against Women, 14.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

MTV -- Where are the Teen Dads?

It’s back…”Teen Mom” on MTV. From a channel that also produces Jersey Shores and The Real World, this show deals with issues that have depth and range. That and it doesn’t include the words “Snookie” or night vision footage of adults playing under covers (Thank you, MTV!). The show does offer viewers a glimpse into the hard world of teen mothers, but something is missing. MTV, where is Teen DAD? Why isn’t the show called “Teen Parents”?

We occasionally see the fathers on the show with the “Teen Moms”, and sure, some of them are present in the stories, even though they aren’t the main characters. But that’s the problem. Why aren’t they one of the main characters, especially since this is “real life”? The fathers of the “cute as a button” children on this show are remarkably absent or neglectful. Ryan doesn’t have a job and can’t pay child support, Gary is always out spending the money he has made to provide for his family and worked hard to make, and Farrah’s child doesn’t have any contact with her father what so ever. Recent research tells us teen fathers want to be more involved in the upbringing of their children, so why are so many teen fathers not pulling their weight with the whole child rearing business?

A study conducted by the Ford Foundation found that many teen fathers are eager to help raise their children; however they are often overlooked by many of the agencies offering help to teen mothers and their children. Teen fathers need the same amount of support and encouragement, but are often the “invisible partner” for a majority of services offered. Many times, because of the trend of absentee fathers in past generations, these new teen fathers don’t have an idea of what a father is supposed to be. They lacked a father themselves, so it is very possible teen fathers need even more support to be present in their children’s lives, because they have no notion of what their role entails. The teen fathers of today deal with doubts about their ability to provide for their family, insecurities about parenting children, and a lack of education because of the high drop-out rates of teen parents. All of these issues are being addressed with the mothers, but if the parenting split is supposed to be 50/50, why is the assistance and encouragement split, 80/20?

The statistics show that having no father present in the lives of children can lead to a myriad of different issues, including that children in fatherless homes are five times more likely to live in poverty, twice as likely to drop out of school, and double the risk of living with emotional or physical abuse (National Fatherhood Initiative). These factors can also be found in what contributes to a teen being at risk for unplanned pregnancy. Teen fathers want the same for their children as any fathers do, they want for their children the best.  Unless we start giving help to the fathers along with the mothers, it will be a longer and harder road to make fathers a constant in children’s lives again and changing the landscape for young people in the future.