According to a new survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in collaboration with the National Council of La Raza, 53 percent of Latinas get pregnant in their teens, about twice the national average. In 2007, the birth rate among non-Hispanic whites ages 15 to 19 was 27.2 per 1,000, and 64.3 per 1,000 for non-Hispanic black teens in the same age range. The teen birth rate among Hispanic teens ages 15 to 19 was 81.7 per 1,000.
Of the 759 Latino teens surveyed, 49 percent said their parents most influenced their decisions about sex, compared with 14 percent who cited friends. Three percent cited religious leaders, 2 percent teachers and 2 percent the media. Three-quarters of Latino teens said their parents have talked to them about sex and relationships, but only half said their parents discussed contraception.
The survey also found that:
- 74 percent of Latino teens believe that parents send one message about sex to their sons and a different message altogether to their daughters, possibly related to the Latino value of machismo.
- Latino teens believe that the most common reason teens do not use contraception is that they are afraid their parents might find out.
- 72 percent of sexually experienced teens say they wish they had waited.
- 84 percent of Latino teens and 91 percent of Latino parents believe that graduating from college or university or having a promising career is the most important goal for a teen's future.
- 34 percent of Latino teens believe that being a teen parent would prevent them from reaching their goals, but 47 percent say being a teen parent would simply delay them from reaching their goals.
- 76 percent said it is important to be married before starting a family.
Obviously there is a huge disconnect between stated values and actual behavior in our community and, according to Ruthie Flores, senior manager of the National Campaign's Latino Initiative, it is having tremendous socio-economic consequences. Flores says that 69 percent of Latina teenage mothers drop out of high school, and the children of teen mothers are less likely to do well in school themselves and often repeat grades. Fewer than six in 10 Latino adults in the United States have a high school diploma and of all the children living in poverty, 30 percent are Latino.
Hermanos y hermanas, el poder para cambiar esta situación está en sus manos. Tenemos que hablar con nuestras hijas de las cuestiones sexuales, crear un ambiente en nuestras familias para que ellas puedan confiar en sus padres, y apoyarlas que vayan a la universidad y tengan una carrera profesional antes de casarse y formar una familia.