The Influence of Teenage Pregnancy Reality Shows

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There are 200 episodes of Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant combined, with up to 2 million viewers per episode. The reality television show goes through the life of teenage mothers and their pregnancy. The teenage mothers express their mindset of being a young mother and insights on their lives.

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Lauren Dolgen, the creator of 16 and pregnant, wrote an article on Cable News Network sharing why she created the series. She says that her intention for creating the series was to share cautionary tales about the consequences of unprotected sex, and the reality of becoming a parent too early. The series has certain aspects that discourage teenage pregnancy and others that may promote teenage pregnancy. The shows, 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, discourage teenage pregnancy in young adult females.

The media has an effect on people of all ages, but mainly teenagers and children. Media and technology is what the teenagers this generation grew up in and this is the type of society that they are a part of. The media can easily change the opinions of the viewer. Jennifer Stevens Aubrey, from the Department of Communication at the University of Arizona, conducted a study on Understanding the Effects of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Adolescent Girls’ Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behavioral Intentions Towards Teen Pregnancy. She explained how the social cognitive theory worked, and how viewers develop a connection with characters of media through homophily and parasocial interaction (Aubrey 3). The social cognitive theory is a theory that claims observing others has an effect on a person’s actions. She defines homophily as the degree to which viewers perceive themselves to be like the characters in terms of traits, abilities, and backgrounds, and parasocial interaction is when the viewer perceives a relationship of friendship with a media personality based on affective ties with that persona (Aubrey 3). Aubrey goes into more detail on how the social cognitive theory works with the viewers watching. The connection a viewer has with the media has an effect on how they relate the situation to their life. If they see the person in the program not having a positive experience with being a teenage mother, the audience is discouraged to have an infant at this age. Some people may say that the media does not affect the way people may think in the real world. That these productions are purely for entertainment. Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine from the National Bureau of Economic Research studied, The impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing. They state that the entertainment media references 16 and Pregnant as a hit show based off of Nielsen Television ratings (Kearney and Levine 10). Aubrey supports this point as well by saying 16 and Pregnant is the most, highly rated cable show among female viewers 1234 years of age in 2010.

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