Two MTV teen mom shows deliver contradictory messages

Monday , January 20, 2014 - 2:22 PM

Jessica Grose

NEW YORK — There are two new studies out this month that seem to contradict each other about the impact of the MTV reality show “16 and Pregnant” and its spin-off, “Teen Mom.”

One of the studies, a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, shows that in the year and a half after “16 and Pregnant” debuted in 2009, the teen birth rate declined about 15 percent and that the reality show is responsible for about a third of that decline.

A second study, to be published in the journal Mass Communication and Society, says that high school students who watch a lot of “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” have unrealistic ideas about teen pregnancies. They believed teen moms earn a lot of money and that the fathers of their children are highly involved.

Though superficially, the two sets of findings don’t seem to gel, when you look more closely, what may be happening is a reality TV phenomenon that affects all reality shows after their first seasons: The stars become famous.

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