LatinaLista — A new report about Latina teen pregnancy doesn’t just examine the issue but, for the first time, breaks down the differences found among Latino families and how they contribute to Latina teens having the highest rates of teen pregnancies and births.
Last week, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released a report entitled Latino Teens and Parents Speak Out About Teen Pregnancy. I have to confess that news of this report didn’t excite me very much. I mean, what else new could possibly be added to the sad fact that Latina teens have the highest rate of teen pregnancy and births among their peers?
But after looking it over, I found that finally there is a report addressing something new. It’s something that the Latino community has known all along but has treated like the proverbial “elephant in the living room.”
It’s standard practice by most of us to remind the media, politicians, national organizations — all those that lump Latinos into one convenient group — that not all Latinos are Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc.
Yet, what’s never pointed out often enough is that even within each of these subgroups are further differences — those who are native born and those who are not; those who speak only Spanish, those who speak English only and those who are bilingual.
What’s been silently acknowledged all this time, and what this new report statistically reveals through its survey questions, is that these differences among Latinos contribute to how education is valued, how parents and children relate to one another, and how traditional cultural attitudes regarding gender play a role in Latino life.
While the report’s authors reveal that the most striking finding of the survey was the fact that there was a “great uniformity” among the teens and parents about their beliefs on sex, regardless of where they were born or their level of acculturation, the authors did uncover differences that are worth noting.
For example, the survey revealed that teenagers who live in a bilingual or mostly English-speaking household believe that graduating from a college or university is an important goal for their future success. For teens who live in mostly Spanish-speaking households, they felt that graduating from high school sufficed.
The teens’ attitudes towards education basically mirrored their parents. Parents who spoke English “very well” or “pretty well” overwhelmingly (65%) considered graduating from a college or university to be the most important goal for their child’s future.
Parents who spoke a little English believed (54%) that graduating from college was an important goal for their children whereas parents who only spoke Spanish believed (50%) that it was more important for their children to have a promising career than necessarily graduate from college.
Another interesting find of the report dispels a long-held belief that most Latino parents don’t discuss sex with their children. The report found that they do — to a point. While parents talk about sex, they don’t talk as much about contraception.
Of course, this finding could be attributed to strong religious convictions but the report suggests that it has more to do with supplying parents with the correct information in both English and Spanish.
However one line of questioning that went beyond language, underscored just how prevalent old cultural attitudes are in how, as a group, we still treat daughters differently from sons.
When asked if their parents send one message to their sons and a different one to their daughters regarding sex, 74 percent of the teens said yes. Under further questioning, 80 percent of the girls reported their parents talked to them about creating successful relationships while only 66 percent of boys reported the same.
For the first time, it’s easy to see the areas that need to be addressed with specialized education and outreach to adequately confront teen pregnancy in the Latino community.
Though this report focuses on the nuances among Latinos that contribute to teenage pregnancies, it’s clear that that this is a first step in holding up a magnifying glass to those subtle differences that exist among all Latinos, and may contribute to other behavioral differences. But most of all, this report exemplifies why no one can assume all Latinos are the same.