Teen pregnancy prevention programme backfires

05 September 2016 - 09:22 By TANYA FARBER

An international study has just dealt a major blow to one of South Africa's most treasured ways of tackling teen pregnancy: giving youngsters dolls to look after as if they were real babies.In fact, the opposite was found.Lead researcher in the study, Dr Sally Brinkman of the Telethon Kids Institute, Western Australia, said: "The programme did not achieve its aim of reducing teenage pregnancy. Girls in the intervention group were in fact more likely to experience a birth or an induced abortion."The study, published in The Lancet and covering 3000 girls, was done in almost 60 schools between 2003 and 2006. Just under half were given lifelike dolls that needed to be burped, fed, changed and cared for. The others simply underwent the normal sex education curriculum which did not feature the dolls.Participants were all aged 13 to 15 at the time, but were followed until they reached the age of 20.Those enrolled in the baby simulation programme experienced a teen pregnancy rate of 17%. Among those in the normal curriculum without dolls, it was only 11%.The method is used worldwide - including South Africa. Just last month, 1600 Eastern Cape grade 8 and 9 pupils were enrolled in a programme by Early Inspiration that would see them taking responsibility for fake babies and reflecting on the process in a journal.Karla Albertina, a Grade 11 pupil in Kraaifontein, Cape Town, said: "We learn about contraception at school and our moms, but if we go to the clinic, we walk out empty-handed. All we're given is a speech about how we shouldn't be having sex."

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