By Margarita Nahapetyan
The Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC) program that is aimed to reduce juvenile criminal behavior in America's youth, has yielded a surprising positive side effect. According to a new evidence, the program also reduces pregnancy rates in teenage girls.
In a new study, which was carried out by the experts at the Oregon State University (OSU) and the Eugene-based Oregon Social Learning Center, researchers proved that placing high-risk youth in this type of programs not only prevents violent behavior, but unwanted pregnancies as well.
To come up with this conclusion, the researchers tracked the progress of 166 teenage girls, with the ages between 13 and 17 years. All the girls had a history of criminal behavior and were ordered by court to receive out-of-home treatment. The investigators randomly assigned the participants into two groups: one group was receiving MTFC program, and another one had to receive services they would have received if they did not take part in the study, which was usually treatment in a group care facility. The girls who were sent to MTFC homes received specialized individual care and counseling from highly trained and skilled professionals, who had also received additional advice on how to handle young people with a high degree of risky behavior.
According to a principal researcher, David Kerr, an assistant professor of psychology at OSU, the results of the study were positive, but dramatic at the same time. From all the girls that have been assigned to receive the specialized Treatment Foster Care program with foster parents, 26 per cent got pregnant throughout the experiment. This is to compare to almost twice the number - 45 per cent of the girls in the group care, who became pregnant during the same period of time.
Kerr said that each girl in the study along with her caregiver were interviewed one and two years after he study. The greater reductions in teen pregnancy, as well as reductions in criminal behavior and arrests and increases in school life activity, were revealed in the group that was assigned to receive the specialized Treatment Foster Care services.
One of the most interesting findings of this study is that the MTFC program was aimed to prevent crime rates, and not pregnancy incidence, Kerr said in a statement. The program particularly targeted to change the environment of teenagers: their home, their peers and their school experience. The goal was to provide them with lots of supervision, support for responsible behavior, and consistent, non-harsh consequences for negative behavior. And so unexpectedly all this appeared to work to reduce pregnancy rates.
According to official statistics, almost 50 per cent of the teen girls in the foster care system have become pregnant by the time they turned 19 years old. There were also some young girls who had more than just one unwanted child. The experts said that while teen pregnancy rates have dropped in the past few years, the United States still has one of the highest rates compared to other developed countries.
The findings are published in the April edition of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. The study was funded in part by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).