Study Finds Baby Simulator Programs Might Raise Teen Pregnancy, Abortion Rates

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Monday, August 29, 2016

Study Finds Baby Simulator Programs Might Raise Teen Pregnancy, Abortion Rates

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on U.S. News & World Report.

That baby simulator home economics class your child has been taking? Well, it might not turn teens off to pregnancy after all, according to new research from Australia.

Girls who took part in the country's Virtual Infant Parenting program, derived from the U.S. program Realityworks, actually had a higher likelihood of becoming pregnant than those unenrolled. Results of the trial were published Thursday in The Lancet. The study authors say their research indicates this method is not likely an efficient use of public funds in the effort to stop teen pregnancy.

"It's one thing to get results to say it doesn't work, it's another to get results that does the opposite," study author Sally Brinkman told ABC News.

The trial examined 2,834 girls across 57 schools in Western Australia (all ages 13 to 15 when the study began, and studied until age 20). More than 1,200 participated in the Virtual Infant Parenting Program, while the other 1,567 had regular health education. The researchers correlated this with hospital record and abortion clinic data.

The team found girls who participated in the program had greater abortion and pregnancy rates, with 8 percent having one birth versus the control group's 4 percent. Nine percent of girls in the program had abortions vs. the control group's 6 percent.

Specifically, the program features educational sessions on topics like how much it costs to have a child and substance abuse during pregnancy, in addition to the oft-featured pop-culture exercise of taking a baby doll home over the weekend. This doll tracks everything from crying time to diaper changes and will indicate when it needs to eat, be rocked and more.

But what does this mean for these efforts in America? Realityworks CEO Timm Boettcher told ABC News that the Australian program differs from the U.S. program in key ways. "The study being released today by The Lancet was not a representation of our curriculum and simulator learning modality but the researchers 'adaptation' and is consequently not reflective of our product nor its efficacy," he said.

Source: U.S. News & World Report