So Bristol Palin and Levi Johnson have called off their engagement and broken
Let's put aside all the hubbub that has surrounded this story since the
beginning -- the Red State/Blue State sniping, the I-told-you-so's about
abstinence-only education, the small-minded jabs about small-town residents, and
the fairy tale fantasies about happily ever after -- and think about what
happens to the vast majority of teen parents and their children:
At the time of their child's birth, more than half of unmarried teen mothers
say they are either "certain" or chances are "good" they will marry the
biological father of their baby. However, in 8 out of 10 cases, it doesn't
This means the majority of children born to teens grow up separate from their
fathers - which often leads to a lifetime of challenges and hardship. Children
who grow up in father-absent families are five times more likely to be poor than
kids in two-parent families. They have double the risk of physical and emotional
neglect and they are twice as likely to drop out of school. They are more likely
to smoke, use drugs, and become obese. Boys have significantly higher odds of
incarceration and girls are much more likely to become teen moms themselves.
Incidentally, the teen parents who do get married don't often stay married -
marriages among teens are twice as likely to fail as marriages in which the
woman is 25 or older.
Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager with a broken heart is
exceptionally hard. Being a teenager who is also a single parent is even harder
than that. And being the child of that parent is probably the hardest thing of
So whether you are Team Bristol or one of those who hopes Levi lands his own
reality show or someone who just wishes this story would go away already, say a
prayer for young Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, who is not yet 3 months old,
and keep in mind what Bristol herself has said, "I think everyone should just
wait ten years. ... Because it's so much easier if you're married and if you
have a house and a career. ... I hope that people learn from my story and ...
prevent teen pregnancy."
Read the Opposing Views debate, "Should Abstinence-Only Sex-Ed be Taught in Public Schools?"
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