Adult mentors may aid teens in foster care

MentorReuters reported on 02/18/08 on a study in the February, 2008 issue of the journal, Pediatrics, which found that "natural mentors" seemed to provide a protective influence on kids in foster care who might otherwise be at risk for substance abuse problems, teen pregnancy, and delinquency.

The Assett model from the Search Institute has pointed this out for years that kids who have adult role models outside of the immediate family who are involved in the kid's life for 4 years or longer has a very significant and positive influence. These natural mentors such as coaches, teachers, neighbors, youth ministers, scout leaders, etc. are much more influential than other more formal mentoring programs where volunteers are often involved for only a few months or a year or two.

Alice Miller, the Swiss Psychoanalyst, had a wonderful term for this role. She called it "the enlightened witness". This was the benevolent person who validated the child's experience and knew what was going on for the child over the long haul. Are you an enlightened witness in any child's life?

Here is a snippet from the Reuters article:

Teenagers in foster care seem to have a brighter future when there is an adult in their life they look up to, a study suggests.

The findings, taken from a national survey of U.S. teens, suggest that "natural mentors" -- teachers, coaches and other adults who are part of foster children's lives -- can make a difference in their future.

In fact, they may be more important than mentors who are connected to children through formal programs, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

This is because, unlike the typically temporary nature of formal mentorships, adults who are naturally part of foster children's lives may be around for the long haul.

Link: MedlinePlus: Adult mentors may aid teens in foster care.

Postponing Parenthood

Parenthood The On Point radio show with Tom Ashbrook had a great show on Monday, January 28th, 2008, on postponing parenthood.

For the first time in human history more parents than ever are postponing child bearing and rearing into their 30s. In fact 52% of college educated women are waiting to have their first child until they are over 30.

I have noticed in my area in Western New York in Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties nestled between Rochester, NY and Buffalo, NY school enrollments in all 18 school districts in those counties has dropped between 2004 and 2007 in some districts as much as 13, 14, and 15%. Most of this drop is attributed to the shrinking demographic of fewer adults between 18 and 34 living in these counties and having children.

It's not new but it's truer than ever -- more and more young American couples are waiting later and later to start a family and have their first baby.

Fifty-two percent of college graduate first-time mothers are now thirty or older -- not just out of high school, not just out of college, but well into life and jobs and relationships and expectations.

Then come the kids. Like an earthquake -- of course.

The radio show entitled "Postponing parenthood" is about 50 minutes long and worth listening to. You can listen on line or download an MP3

Link: On Point : Postponing Parenthood.

U.S. abortion rate at lowest level since '74

Abortion The abortion rate and actual number of abortions are down in the U.S. according to an article  published by Reuters on January 17, 2008 based on a study which will be published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health in March of 2008.

The U.S. abortion rate continued its long-term decline in 2005, falling to its lowest level since 1974, according to the latest census of all known abortion providers in the U.S. conducted by the Guttmacher Institute in New York.

In 2005, the U.S. abortion rate fell to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years, continuing the downward trend that started after the U.S. abortion rate peaked in 1981 at 29.3 per 1,000 women.

The number of abortions also declined, to a total of 1.2 million in 2005. This is 8 percent fewer than in 2000 and 25 percent below the all-time high of 1.6 million abortions performed in 1990.

It appears that more abortions are now done with medication since the pill RU- 486 is available. Medication rather than surgical intervention can be done up to the 9th week of pregnancy.

A "key finding" from this survey is that "mifepristone matters," Jones said. "Mifepristone is having an impact on abortion services although we aren't sure at this point whether it is increasing access to abortions."

The latest census shows that 57 percent of all known abortion providers in the U.S. now offer early termination of pregnancy with RU-486, up from 33 percent in early 2001. Medication abortion accounted for 13 percent, or 161,000, of all abortions performed in 2005, and 22 percent of all abortions eligible for RU-486 - that is, those performed up to nine weeks' of pregnancy.

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looking at abortion in 2004 found that there has been a "gradual but notable increase in very early abortions and we think in part that can be attributed to the availability of mifepristone," Jones noted.

"We knew that (mifepristone use) had increased and had become better integrated into abortion services; this survey just gave us an actual figure to work with," Jones said.

Mifepristone, she added, "provides women who are terminating their pregnancies with more options; in many cases they now have an option as to whether they want surgical abortion or medication abortion."

Link: MedlinePlus: U.S. abortion rate at lowest level since '74.

Juno, the film

Juno There are not a lot of good movies currently to be seen in commercial movie theaters and then along come two back to back Charlie Wilson's War and Juno.

Juno was released on 12/25/07 and is well worth seeing. It is about Juno MacGruff a 16 year old quirky high school girl who gets pregnant with her meek and mild mannered boyfriend, Paulie Bleeker.

This is a delightful coming of age movie in which Juno seems wise and mature beyond her years. She is snarky and wise and entirely endearing and reminds me of one of my own daughters, a couple of them actually.

The creative tension in the film comes from how she will manage her pregnancy and how people will react to it. This would be a good film for teenagers to see and I am very interested in what they think of it.

I highly recommend it.

Link: Juno Photos.

Bipolar moms-to-be who stop meds risk relapse

Pregnant_woman Reuters reported on January 1, 2008 on a study in the December, 2007 issue of the American Journal Of Psychiatry that pregnant woman with a history of bi-polar illness might be better to stay on their meds during their pregnancies rather than to discontinue them to avoid relapse.

Link: MedlinePlus: Bipolar moms-to-be who stop meds risk relapse.

Report: Abstinence not curbing teen sex

AP reported today, 11/07/07, on a report that abstinence only programs do not curb teen sex.

Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

"At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners" among teenagers, the study concluded.

The report, which was based on a review of research into teenager sexual behavior, was being released Wednesday by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs were having "positive outcomes" including teenagers "delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use."

"Two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive programs that supported both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives for sexually active teens had positive behavior effect," said the report.

A spending bill before Congress for the Department of Health and Human Services would provide $141 million in assistance for community-based, abstinence-only sex education programs, $4 million more than what President Bush had requested.

This is another example of how ideology and religious agendas have trumped sound public health science during the Bush Administration. Perhaps as we move to a new administration we can once again renew our belief in the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. Bush's "faith based" initiatives, while they may have attracted right wing evangelical support, are not founded on sound social policy values.

Link: Print Story: Report: Abstinence not curbing teen sex on Yahoo! News.

Men who smoke risk erectile dysfunction

Notrizin27 Hey guys, before you reach for the Viagra and Cialis maybe you ought to quit smoking. According to an article done by Reuters on September 26, 2007, on a study published in the October, 2007 American Journal of Epidemiology, men who smoke risk erectile dysfunction which means they can be impotent which means they can't get it up which means they can't get wood when they want to.

Otherwise healthy men who smoke risk developing erectile dysfunction -- and the more cigarettes they smoke, the greater the risk of erectile dysfunction, according to a new study.

Erectile dysfunction is the consistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance. In a study of 4,763 Chinese men aged 35 to 74 years who were free of blood vessel disease and who reported that they had been sexually active within the last 6 months, the researchers found a significant statistical link between the number of cigarettes smoked and the likelihood of erectile dysfunction.

Link: MedlinePlus: Men who smoke risk erectile dysfunction: study.

Birth Control is Wonderful!

Teen_sexuality The Reverend Marlin Lavanhar, the senior pastor at All Soul's Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK, gave a wonderful sermon on April 29, 2007 entitled, "Birth Control Is Wonderful." He describes the relationship of religion and sexuality and gives a very wise view on how sexuality should be dealt with in our contemporary culture. This sermon should be listened to by every human being aged 13 and older. I highly recommend it to parents of pre-adolescent and adolescent children who have the primary responsibility of helping their children learn how to manage their developing sexual impulses. Click on the link below to go to the Digg web site where you can listen to the sermon.

Driving around Tulsa we can see huge billboards that read, "Birth Control is Harmful." These are countered by other billboards that say, "Birth Control is Easy." The first slogan and its implications are much more harmful than birth control itself. The second slogan is inadequate in its response to the first. There are enormous moral issues at stake in this debate and they require more than a billboard campaign. Sex is not a sin. However, religious dogmas that lead to overpopulation, increased poverty and the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (such as a ban on birth control) is a sin of deadly proportions. Religions that promote ideologies that inadvertently lead to suffering and death are much more harmful than religions that advocate for responsible sexual behavior. You may hear more about sex this Sunday than you have ever heard in church before. Well, at least more positive comments about sex.

Link: Digg - Birth Control is Wonderful! (All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa, OK).

McCain Stumbles on H.I.V. Prevention

Adam Nagourney has a great article on the New York Times News blog about a conversation with John McCain about the distribution of condoms to prevent H.I.V. infection. It makes you sad to think that this guy thinks he could be President of the United States. Here is part of the reporter's interview of John McCain:

Reporter: “Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?”

Mr. McCain: “Well I think it’s a combination. The guy I really respect on this is Dr. Coburn. He believes – and I was just reading the thing he wrote– that you should do what you can to encourage abstinence where there is going to be sexual activity. Where that doesn’t succeed, than he thinks that we should employ contraceptives as well. But I agree with him that the first priority is on abstinence. I look to people like Dr. Coburn. I’m not very wise on it.”

(Mr. McCain turns to take a question on Iraq, but a moment later looks back to the reporter who asked him about AIDS.)

Mr. McCain: “I haven’t thought about it. Before I give you an answer, let me think about. Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before. I don’t know if I would use taxpayers’ money for it.”

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

Senator McCain doesn't know what his position on contraception is? He has to check with the President? He isn't aware that AIDS and the spread of the H.I.V. virus is the major public health issue of our time? He's forgotten his position on this issue? It's sad, just so sad, that this level of incompetence passes for being qualified to run for President of the United States.

Link: McCain Stumbles on H.I.V. Prevention - The Caucus - Politics - New York Times Blog.

Heavy Christmas drinking leads to high abortion rates in UK a month later

Partying The BBC reports that there was a record number of abortions in the UK in January of 2005 because of all the unprotected sex that occurred during Christmas partying where the intoxicants were flowing. People often don't think of the date rape and poor judgement that is used due to substance abuse as resulting in sexual consequences like unwanted pregnancy and transmission of STDs.

Heavy Christmas drinking and partying, leading to unprotected sex, could be to blame for a record number of abortions last month, says a UK charity.

A total of 5,992 abortions were carried out at Marie Stopes International's nine UK clinics in January - a rise of 13% on the 5,304 in January 2005.

This is more in a month than at any time in the charity's 32-year history.

But pregnancy advice groups said the figures probably reflected poor access to contraceptive services.

To read the BBC report published on 02/08/07 click here.