What the Bristol Palin Break-Up Says About Teen Pregnancy

| by National Campaign
So Bristol Palin and Levi Johnson have called off their engagement and broken up.

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 happen.

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 all.

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?"