If MTV ever decides to do a show about teenagers with two babies, they know exactly who to call. Three girls featured on the popular docu-series “16 and Pregnant” are currently pregnant again.
Ebony Jackson-Rendon, who appeared on the show’s first season, Brooke Smitherman-Tarrant of season two, and Kristina Head, whose heartbreaking story about the accidental death of her baby’s father served as the fourth season’s finale, are all expecting a second child by early next year.
Jackson-Rendon only recently regained custody of the three-year-old daughter she gave birth to on the show, Jocelyn. She and her husband, Joshua, were arrested and Jocelyn was taken into protective custody in Sept. 2011 after police found their home on an Arkansas Air Force base to have “deplorable conditions.”
While trying to regain custody of Jocelyn, the Jacksons discovered that Ebony was pregnant again. In April, Joshua told TMZ that although the pregnancy was not planned, they are “extremely excited for the baby.”
Although MTV has touted the show and its spin-offs “Teen Mom” and “Teen Mom 2” as possible tools to prevent teen pregnancy -- and declining teen birth rates, as well as a report detailing "16 and Pregnant's" impact by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, arguably back that up -- some statistics show that it is still common for a teenage mother to become pregnant again shortly after giving birth to her first child.
“About 20 percent of teen births annually are second or higher order births to teen mothers,” Pat Paluzzi, president and CEO of Healthy Teen Network, a non-profit organization focused on the prevention of teen pregnancy and support for pregnant and parenting teens, told TODAY.com. “Many teens express ambivalence about getting pregnant and thus it becomes easier in some regards to repeat it. Most teen pregnancies are unintended but not necessarily unwanted.”
Even the girls featured on the show are not immune to this trend. In fact, of the 47 girls that have been featured on the show, at least six have experienced a second pregnancy within two years of giving birth. Season three's Jordan Ward gave birth to her second child in November 2011, while Leah Messer, of season two and later “Teen Mom 2,” reportedly miscarried earlier this year. Markai Durham, of season two, chose to have an abortion and allowed MTV to document her experience for a special called “No Easy Decision,” which aired in 2010.
Since its debut in 2009, “16 and Pregnant” has been criticized by some experts and some the media for turning its subjects into tabloid stars.
“The shows sensationalize the life of a teenage mother -- exaggerating the good and the bad for ratings,” according to psychiatrist and author Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D., who spoke to TODAY.com. “But, even when they show the bad, it still doesn’t discourage other teens (from getting pregnant) because they are envious of these teen moms. The producers may have originally given a nod to the idealistic goal of preventing teen pregnancy with these shows but … the media has turned (these girls) into celebrities.”
Kail Lowry, who was featured on the show’s second season and went on to star on “Teen Mom 2,” argues that the show does discourage girls from getting pregnant -- or pregnant again -- by showing how difficult it is to have a child or two while still in your teens.
“I think it’s really important for girls to notice that in one episode, one of us is crying, one of us is fighting with her boyfriend, one of us doesn’t have enough money to buy diapers and one of us is about to go to jail,” she said during an appearance on “Good Morning America” in December 2011. “There’s no way that any of that is glamorous.”
MTV did not respond to a request for comment regarding if the network had any plans to feature the girls who are pregnant again on an upcoming show.
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