Being Bruce -: Question Everything - Including the News - Does Watching Sexy TV Shows Correlate with Teenage Pregnancy?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Question Everything - Including the News - Does Watching Sexy TV Shows Correlate with Teenage Pregnancy?

Scanning this morning's early headlines this one caught my eye, "Teen pregnancies tied to tastes for sexy TV shows". Released by the Associated Press late Monday evening, this story draws conclusions based on a study by Rand Corp. published in the November issue of Pediatrics. In the study 2,003 teenagers (boys and girls) were interviewed about their television watching habits and about pregnancy.

According to the study,which consisted of telephone interviews in which teenagers were asked about TV viewing habits in 2001 and about pregnancy in 2003 and 2004, teenagers who regularly watched TV shows "popular among teens at the time" OR "which were found to have lots of sexual content" were twice as likely to either have gotten pregnant themselves or gotten someone else pregnant.

On the surface this seems both obvious and expected. But there are huge questions begged by this study, as reported or spun by the AP anyway. It could be argued from the data as presented in the AP story that teenagers who watch either no television at all or only shows most teens don't like are only half as likely to become or to get someone pregnant.

If you're interested in dissecting the AP story, the article in Pediatrics, or the Rand Corp. study, by all means seek those sources and dig in. My point is that, no surprise, if we're going to be intelligent consumers of the news, especially news based on research and statistics, we owe it to ourselves to learn at least a little about research, statistics, and experimental design. (OK, so did I lose you yet?) This is Election Day 2008 - hopefully within a few days we'll be past the barrage of polls and statistics as news and influencers themselves.

It may very well be the Rand Corp. study is rock-solid research and design-wise and that the stats and conclusions based on them are total truth. To assume that a new truth has been discovered just because of a published study, or a news story about a published study, or a blog commenting on a news story about a published story is too big a leap, however. Most people do not have the time to thoroughly or even casually research the news . . . but we can question it.