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New Latina teen pregnancy survey highlights the differences among Latinos

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.

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  • hissy
    May 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I always felt it was because they don’t use BIRTH CONTROL(because of religion)….and no abortions.

  • MaryElizabeth
    May 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    This was a good article Marissa. I happen to agree with the idea that old cultural attitudes happen to have alot to do with the teenage pregnancys with hispanics. Also to define latino as one group would be making a general blanket statement since there are so many different groups like you pointed out, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, Hondorian, Costa Rica, Peruvian, Argentina, Panama…etc.,etc..I won’t go on. The latina population is most often sterotyped as one group and that is misleading to the general public. Latinas that are second generation have been exposed to the freedoms that women enjoy in the US on the other hand there are many first generation girls that lack the education they need on sex, pregnancy and womens opportunitys they have. Old cultural attitudes that they are influenced by are similiar to my upbringing in an Italian family and sometimes it takes a few generations in the US to break these attitudes. Back in some of these native countrys the roll of women are too stay home, have children, cook and clean and these influences are brainwashed in their children without intention because this is the natural role they play back home and this is their belief system. When a women is taught that this is her role in society it is almost impossible for her to alter her beliefs. I have grown up with many friends that have spent more time thinking about raising familys and finding a man to take care of her rather than getting an education and taking care of themselves and this is because they are brainwashed that this defines a woman. With this way of thinking and a lack of sex education and options a young girl can find herself trying to define herself sexually through experiences that whe can not handle at such a young age. This way of thinking is very dangerous and a young girl can end up in horrific situations trusting people that are not trust worthy. I can really identify with this issue because growing up was a struggle to me as an Italian American woman who feels these old traditions for woman can be a brainwash that cuts of woman short of the quality of life and independence she can enjoy as an American and the choices our country have to offer her. Unfortunately many times a young girl has to live with the outcome of these influences and lack of education have given her and she is faced with a life of obsticles that hold her growth back later on in life. Also, a young latina girl in America might experience her parents adjusting to a society that is so radically different than what they are use to back home that she might feel the tensions of that radical difference between her peers at school and those old cultural differences in the home that her parents find challenging. When I think about these issues they are not new to us. These are the issues that we continue to struggle with as women and as we grow together we will find ways to reach out together to help first generation groups of women by educateing them.

  • Bianca
    May 27, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I am very pleased with the info that is revealed in this report. Can anyone tell me if there is a national group or a group on the verge of preventing teen pregnancy amongst Latinas and/or minority women in general?

  • Corina
    June 6, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    While we all can definitely agree that not all Latinas and Latinos are the same, the point of this article was more destructive than empowering to the Latina community. The article makes a great point on how the more “acculturated” a Latina is the more your true “American” values and beliefs become as a result teen pregnancies will decrease. I was disappointed at how there was only a focus on “acculturation” and not on critiquing the system in which we live in as a difference for teen pregnancies. A system of institutionalized privilege and oppression instead further oppressing ourselves by almost concluding that English speaking Latinas are have better beliefs and fit better into our “American” society. This article could have been a great way to talk about how differently we are affected because of the differences within our Latina community; how we need different resources and technique to educate and empower a community that is still in the shadows and not just place one group of Latinas above another.

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