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Regional Needs Assessment reveals glaring results: Teen pregnancy rates permeate Permian Basin

Something must be done in our communities to address skyrocketing teenage rates. It can be difficult as a parent or even as a friend to communicate about teenage pregnancy, but research has shown it is a necessary component of a family structure. Teenage pregnancy is different than other issue that face the Permian Basin in that there are many protective factors in the status quo which can be strengthened, adapted, or developed.One avenue teenage pregnancy rates in our area can be lowered is through healthy family communication. Time and time again, research has shown healthy family communication about safe sexual practice is a crucial component of a modern family structure (Miller, Benson, & Galbraith, 2001). As a result of omnipresent messages our children see in the technological age, often youth know more about sex than we would think they know. Even if that is not the case, knowing what messages they can receive through a litany of channels as adults means it is largely our responsibility to put those sexual messages in a context your family structure deems necessary and desirable. Though there are other protective factors which can combat teenage pregnancy rates, like school, spiritual or religious institutions, and extra-curricular activities, healthy family communication can allow for possibly more comfortable, 1-on-1, or timely sexual health “talk” other avenues might not allow.To solely blame the conservative tenor of the Permian Basin would nonsensically ignore the cultural, social, and economic climates of our community. There are many underlying factors that contribute to teenage pregnancy. What we do know is this:

  • Twenty counties DSHS Region 9 were above the national average for teenage pregnancy rates

  • Seventeen counties had higher teenage pregnancy rates in 2015 as they did in 2014

  • Ector, Reeves, Crocket, Dawson, and Andrews Counties are in the top 30 counties in Texas with the highest teenage pregnancy rate

  • Ector County is in the top 75 of highest teenage pregnancy rates in the entire United States.

If more must be done, how does our community address the problem? One way that has proven to work is through substance use prevention, especially among youth. Youth who do not drink or do drugs are much less likely to get pregnant or get someone pregnant (The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 1997). Monitoring or removing the messages of permissible drug and alcohol use can not only be effective preventative measures for teenage pregnancy, but a litany of other risk factors like dropping out of school, quitting jobs, or even committing crimesFamily communication is important. Talking to children about the risks associated with risky or unhealthy sexual activity is just one of the ways our community can change our teenage pregnancy issue. If you don’t talk to your children about risky or unhealthy sexual activity, then who will?

By Kevin ThompsonRegional EvaluatorPrevention Resource Center- Region 9kthompson@pbrcada.org

  1. Miller, BC., Benson, B., Galbraith, GA., Family Relationships and Adolescent Pregnancy Risk: A Research Synthesis. 2001, Developmental Review 21, 1-28, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA.

  2. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), Substance Abuse and the American Adolescent: A Report by the Commission on Substance Abuse Among American Adolescents. 1997, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, New York, NY.


Published August 5, 2016.

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