Trend Lines Blog

Welcome to Child Trends’ blog, Trend Lines, where we share key findings from child and youth research and offer insights to inform  policies and programs.

There Are Some Good Trends on Today’s Teens

dv1644067Bad news makes good headlines, so good news sometimes flies under the radar. It grabs people’s attention that young people are burdened with unprecedented debt, or that marijuana use is increasing. But many indicators of youth well-being are improving. Because I work on maintaining the Child Trends Databank, I see these hopeful trends every day, and think it is important to sometimes emphasize the positive ones.

Among the most well-known of these positive trends is the steady decrease in teen pregnancies and teen births. President Obama cheered this trend in his State of the Union Address in January.  In 1990, teen pregnancies had hit a high of 117 pregnancies per 1,000 teens.  In 2010, the rate was less than half that. Teen births show a similar trend, falling from 62 to 27 births per 1,000 teens between 1991 and 2013. This is a positive story because teenage mothers, compared with older mothers, are less likely to finish high school or go on to college, and more likely to be dependent on government benefits, especially in the first years after giving birth.

Teens are also less likely to die than in past decades. Read More

What R Teens Learning from Sext-Ed?

teen on tablet in classTeens spend about the same amount of time on social media that they do in school – seven and a half hours per day, on average. In fact, 93 percent of teens own or have access to a computer and 78 percent own a cell phone, nearly half of which are smart phones. Accordingly, teens are increasingly getting information, formally and informally, through social media and on electronic devices. This includes information about sexual and reproductive health. Many teens receive research-based online sex education that aims to prevent negative health outcomes, such as unintended pregnancy and STDs. However, some less trustworthy sources may negatively influence teens by exposing them to sexually explicit material or by promoting misleading or untrue information about sexual and reproductive health.

Social media presents an opportunity to provide teens and young adults with helpful and age-appropriate information at their fingertips, but we need to know more about these digital sources of sex education and their effects on teens’ attitudes and behaviors. Read More

Can We be Hopeful About Romance and Relationships Anymore?

valclipThe current state of romantic relationships in the United States is not too promising. Consider the following: the current divorce rate is estimated at 45 percent;41 percent of children are born to unmarried women; and 1 in 10 high school students report being victims to dating violence.

What do we know about the hope youth and adults have that they will be able to form happy, stable relationships that last a lifetime? Compared with previous generations, young adults today have less confidence that they will have a happy, stable marriage. For many individuals in more complex families (for example, where one or both partners have children from previous relationships), having hope for a stable marriage seems unattainable.  So what can be done?

We know that education in developing countries can help to alleviate suffering and brings hope and new vocational possibilities, helping people help themselves and improve their own situations. Could this same principle apply to a country low in relationship hope? Could relationship education help the American people have more hope in their relationships? Read More

Why the Public Needs Greater Access to Scientific Information about Children

rwjThe New York Times recently published an important article that provided a really good synopsis of advances in mental health research over the past 10-20 years.  The January 17th article, by T.M. Luhrmann of Stanford University, describes how scientists’ understanding of mental health problems has evolved substantially.  The article notes that social experiences are important; moreover, nature and nurture are not distinct spheres but influences that interact throughout human development.  The article also highlights that drugs generally are not a cure-all and that combining talk therapy with drug therapy may be of significant value.  In addition, the article reported changing perspectives of diagnosis, noting that there is no clear line that divides mental illness from the life experiences of those who are not defined as mentally ill.

While Luhrmann provides an excellent summary of current understanding, I found it remarkable how long it has taken to get the word out to the public.  Child Trends, in fact, published a report in 2007, noting that “mental health is influenced by a combination of social and genetic factors.” Why does it take so long to get such important knowledge gains out to the public?

What else is not widely known? Read More

Hispanic Voices Shines Light on Issues Facing Hispanic Children and Families

nrcIt’s an eventful time for the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families! Today, we launch our new website; release a brief, The Complex and Varied Households of Low-Income Hispanic Children; and announce an upcoming webinar. More on the brief and webinar are below. However, before we get to those, this inaugural Hispanic Voices post is also the perfect opportunity to reflect on the Center’s unique contributions and our mission to help programs and policies better serve low-income Hispanic children and families. So, what are the Center’s unique contributions? We have three answers: Read More