A recent study has shown that MTV's hit documentary series 16 and Pregnant and its Teen Mom spin-off have actually led to fewer births among teenagers, despite the controversy surrounding the show.
In a study done by Wellesley College economist Phillip B. Levine and University of Maryland economist Melissa Schettini Kearney, it was discovered that these programs led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births. This percentage accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births total in the year and a half following the show's initial airing in 2009.
"When we developed 16 and Pregnant, teen birth rates were reported to be on the rise, so we created this series as a cautionary tale on the hard realities of teen pregnancy," said Stephen Friedman, President of MTV. "We've always believed that storytelling can be a powerful catalyst for change and are incredibly heartened by this news."
Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant follow teen mothers during their trials and tribulations as they take the dramatic step from childhood to adulthood, essentially overnight.
When the shows first aired on TV, they received backlash from viewers and the media, claiming that the series glamorized teen pregnancy. The show received even more backlash in the following years when the teen mothers featured on the show started endorsing products and appearing on covers of tabloids. This led people to believe that these mothers were almost being "rewarded" for their unplanned pregnancies, but that isn't the case.
Witnessing childbirth, destroyed relationships, money issues and loss of free time among many other issues on the show that truly come with having a baby as a "baby," reportedly contribute to the decline in teen births.
So far, Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant have both remained successful and show no signs of canceling.
16 and Pregnant has had four successful seasons and the fifth season is currently in production. Teen Mom has featured three different groups of young mothers in Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2 and Teen Mom 3. Teen Mom had four successful seasons before coming to a close and Teen Mom 3 was canceled just after one season for undisclosed reasons. Teen Mom 2's fifth season aired on Jan. 21, 2014, on MTV.
The study, "Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV's 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing," was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research on Jan. 13, 2014.