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Cultural Assumptions Often Misleading

First Ever Statewide Survey Examining California's Diverse Populations' Attitudes and Opinions Regarding Teen Pregnancy 

SACRAMENTO, April 28, 2003 — California's ethnically diverse populations have as many similarities as they do differences in their attitudes and opinions about teen sexuality and pregnancy prevention, according to a public opinion poll conducted by the Field Research Corporation.

The Get Real About Teen Pregnancy campaign today released the results of a statewide telephone survey of more than 1,300 adults in California, with equal representation among African-American, Caucasian, Filipino, Latino and Vietnamese respondents. The ethnic groups were chosen based on their percentage of the overall population and rates of teen births among each population. This survey was designed to identify the impact that cultural identity may have on teenage pregnancy prevention in an effort to help develop successful prevention strategies that are respectful of cultural attitudes. The survey also tested a few assumptions about various ethnic groups' attitudes and opinions about teenage pregnancy prevention, finding that some stereotypical assumptions were incorrect.

Disparity of teen birth rates among ethnic groups makes this issue compelling. For example, birth rates to Latino and African-American teens are disproportionately higher than births to Caucasian teens. And teen births among some Asian sub-populations are higher than any other ethnic group.

"The cultural stereotypes that are often applied to ethnic groups about teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent health can do much more harm than good," said Dawn Wilcox, Public Education Director for Get Real. "For example, not all Latinos are opposed to contraception and not all African-Americans are heavily influenced by religious leaders."

California's teen birth rate recently dipped below the national average for the first time in more than 20 years. However, there were still 45 births per 1,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 in 2001, equaling some 52, 966 babies born to teens. The birth rate for Latinos remains the highest among California's populations with 86.2 births per 1,000 teens. African-Americans have the next highest birth rate with 53.3 births per 1,000 teens.

"We cannot become complacent even as we celebrate the good news of the nation-leading decline of teen births in California," said Norm Constatine, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Public Health Institute in Berkeley. "As California's teen population grows, especially within the highest teen birth rate groups, a conservative estimate projects a 23 percent increase in the number of teen births within the next five years."

Key findings from the study include these similarities in public opinion across ethnic groups:

-Across all ethnicities, parents are considered the most important source of influence on teens' attitudes and behaviors. (Average of 69 percent across all groups surveyed.)

-Nearly all parents acknowledged a higher comfort level talking with their sons about sex and birth control than talking with their daughters, although the same respondents agreed that parental influence is important in helping to prevent teenage pregnancy. (Average of 60 percent feel most comfortable talking to their sons, while an average of 54 percent feel most comfortable talking to their daughters

-Californians continue to overwhelmingly support providing comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. (Average of 85 percent across all groups.)

-There is strong support across all groups for both the provision of emergency contraception (EC) to adult women and provision of information about EC to teens. (Average of 63 percent across all groups)

-Nearly all respondents agree that providing teens more employment, educational and recreational opportunities would be the most effective means to help prevent teenage pregnancy. (Average of 93 percent across all groups.)

Key findings from the study include these differences in public opinion across ethnic groups:

-More than any other ethnic group, African-Americans (71 percent) view teen pregnancy as a very serious problem.

-One hundred percent of Filipinos interviewed believe that helping their teen to prevent pregnancy was very important (compared to other current issues parents of teenagers have to deal with) versus 88 percent of African-Americans, 59 percent of Caucasians, 90 percent of Latinos, and 62 percent of Vietnamese.

-Only 56 percent of Vietnamese respondents believe it's easy for adults and teens to access information on pregnancy prevention, versus 70 percent of Filipinos and Latinos, 80 percent of African-Americans, and 86 percent of Caucasians.

-Eighty-six percent of Latino respondents believe it is very or somewhat effective to make available free contraceptives to sexually active teenagers, versus 82 percent of African-Americans, 80 percent of Caucasians, 77 percent of Filipinos and 71 percent of Vietnamese.

The survey was conducted by the Field Research Corporation in the fall of 2002 as a follow up to qualitative research conducted in 2000 and 2001 which was released under the title "Voices of California: A Multicultural Perspective on Teen Pregnancy."

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About “Get Real”
The Get Real About Teen Pregnancy Campaign was designed to increase public understanding about realistic approaches all adults can take to help address the problem of teen pregnancy. It promotes the concept of "healthy adolescent sexuality" which includes providing teens with accurate, comprehensive sexuality education to make responsible decisions, as well as access to contraceptives to avoid unplanned pregnancies and disease. The Get Real campaign is funded by a grant to Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide from The California Wellness Foundation.

About The California Wellness Foundation
Created in 1992 as an independent, private foundation, The California Wellness Foundation’s mission is to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.

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