teen pregnancy reduction campaigns in Brazil may be backfiring

Teen pregnancy reduction campaigns in Brazil may be backfiring


Efforts to reduce teen pregnancy rates in Brazil have shown mixed results, and new research from Vanderbilt University suggests that the recent growth of psychological approaches to teen pregnancy prevention may have detrimental effects.

Teen pregnancy has traditionally been seen as a problem linked to poverty, low educational opportunities and family dysfunction. In recent years, researchers have linked teen pregnancy to measures of developmental immaturity, sexual risk-taking and long-lasting depression. This new body of research has started influencing the content of teen pregnancy prevention campaigns.

“As in other countries, Brazilian experts have long been implementing health education campaigns to encourage young people to delay parenthood by focusing on the social risks of early child-bearing, namely education outcomes and employment prospects,” said Dominique Pareja Béhague, associate professor of medicine, health and society at Vanderbilt. “But now these campaigns are talking much more about psychological risks and consequences, such as the fact that teen mothers appear to be at greater risk of prolonged anxiety and depression.”

new research

Béhague’s new paper, along with two previous publications, explores some of the unintended consequences of these discourses and campaigns, including an increased sense of marginalization and discrimination among youth, even before they become sexually active or pregnant.

The study, Psychiatry, Sex, and Science: The Making of ‘Adolescent’ Motherhood in Southern Brazil, was published by Medical Anthropology on April 28. Béhague found that teachers, clinicians and psychologists who interact with young people now frequently tell them about the psychological and developmental risks of teen pregnancy as part of their efforts to encourage contraceptives and delay parenthood.

That approach needs serious reconsideration, Béhague said.

“Public health programs and discourses, though well-intentioned, are burdened with very negative images of teen mothers and of sexually active teens,”“Public health programs and discourses, though well-intentioned, are burdened with very negative images of teen mothers and of sexually active teens,”Béhague said. “We found that young people are understandably quite sensitive to and even insulted by the implicit messages they encounter in these programs.”

The psychological experiences of teen moms are more varied than is generally assumed, Béhague added.

“In our study, many teen mothers experienced no lasting emotional difficulties,” she said. “For those who did, we found that stigma and discrimination were more influential than psychological characteristics, single motherhood or even low income. Public health approaches can easily exacerbate rather than alleviate these social stigmas.”

“Public health campaigns should address the broader social structures that stigmatize teen childbearing.”

the 1982 Pelotas (Brazil) birth cohort study

Béhague has conducted long-term anthropological and epidemiological research in collaboration with researchers at the Department of Social Medicine at the Federal University of Pelotas in southern Brazil, who initiated and continue to direct The1982 Pelotas (Brazil) Birth Cohort Study. This study has been following representative subsamples of the 5,914 children who were born in Pelotas in 1982 over the last 30 years.

Written by: Jim Patterson

Note: This post is republished from Research News @ Vanderbilt, with permission

anthro in the news 6/26/17

Parliamentary election exit poll results 2017. Source: News.com.au

electability over vision

The New Statesman published commentary by David Graeber, professor of social anthropology at the London School of Economics, in response to the recent U.K. parliamentary election. He writes: “…How did we get to the point where the candidate of a major party was judged not by his political vision, programme or sensibilities, but by an estimation of how different classes of imagined voters were likely to respond to him? How is it that this has become our basic standard for judging politicians? And by “we” I am referring not just to political junkies, professional or otherwise, but to the electorate as a whole.”

honeymoon in France

Credit: re-inventingfabulous.com

The New York Times carried an article about the political success of France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, as well as the challenges he faces. The article quotes Marc Abélès, professor of political anthropology at the École Des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. He is optimistic: “There is a sort of change in the culture…There was an atmosphere that was a bit deadening, the impression that one couldn’t get out, that one was cornered…And I think against that backdrop something was pushed. We were completely looking at things negatively, and now people have a tendency to see things more positively.”

Tsukiji’s future

The Japan Times reported on continued concerns about the long-proposed relocation of Tsukiji, the world’s largest fish market, from central Tokyo to a new site. The delay is related to the fact that the new site is the location of a former gas plant and the possibility of environmental problems. According to Ted Bestor, professor of social anthropology at Harvard University and author of Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World, the move would greatly impact not only the market as a place to visit but also as a world-class hub for fish sales: “You can’t duplicate something of that magnitude…The Tokyo government may have destroyed a brand name of enormous value.”

culture and electricity

The Gazette (Iowa) reported that cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke will keynote the Iowa Ideas Energy & Environment track on September 22. Her research examines the chaos and creativity that emerge during social, cultural and technological transitions with a focus on the culture of electricity in the United States. Bakke has a particular interest in learning what people do when systems they depend on aren’t working. In her book, The Grid, she shows how the electrical grid is now a poor fit for current needs and emerging energy sources. Microsoft founder Bill Gates named The Grid one of his five favorite books of 2016.

take that anthro degree and…

…become a nonprofit administrator. Rachel Miller is executive director of the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. She wants to strengthen the ASC’s theater program, improve ties with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, offer more field trip opportunities to the museum for southeast Arkansas schools, and improve the visiting experience for people with special needs. She has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

…become a development project manager. Abdullah Durrani is a program manager for a UNWFP-funded effort to prevent acute malnutrition, and he is executive council member of Scaling up Nutrition-Civil society alliance (SUN-CSA) Pakistan. Durrani has an M.A. in anthropology from Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.

…become a skills trainer. Diego Arevalo Labra is a skills trainer with The Genius Workshop in Shanghai, a science, technology and math (STEM) education center that develops concepts through LEGO pieces for children from 3 to 14 years old. Labra has an M.A. in social and cultural anthropology from Panteion Panepestimion Ikonomikon kai Politicon Epistimon.

prehistoric pollutants

The Los Angeles Times reported on experimental archaeology research on bitumen use in California’s Channel Islands to assess its possible negative effects on human health. Sabrina Sholts, an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution, and her colleagues used historical records to determine how prehistoric peoples where made water bottles. The researchers replicated the methods, weaving rush plants into bottles and coating them with bitumen that was melted down with hot pebbles inside an abalone shell.
The findings, published in the journal Environmental Health, demonstrate that human exposure to harmful chemicals is not new, and, at the time under consideration, human health effects of bitumen use were likely not significant. The article includes a comment from Patricia Lambert, a biological anthropologist at Utah State University who was not involved in the work: “Exposure to toxic levels of PAHs may well have occurred long before the age of automobiles.” Eric Bartelink, a bioarchaeologist and forensic anthropologist at Chico State University who studies prehistoric Californians, agrees with the study authors that bitumen probably did not play a role in the demise of the islanders.

in memoriam

Cultural anthropologist Ben Finney died at the age of 83 years. A professor at the University of Hawaii for 30 years before retiring, Finney published many books on Pacific culture and history including Sailing in the Wake of the Ancestors: Reviving Polynesian Voyaging. Over several decades, he pursued his idea that prehistoric people migrated to the Pacific islands via canoes, purposefully and not accidentally. In 1974, he and several colleagues recreated a facsimile of the double-hulled canoes used in ancient Polynesia and took it on test runs around Hawaii. But it was not until 1980 that the Hokulea successfully completed its maiden voyage. In 1985, a more ambitious voyage to New Zealand, by way of Tahiti and the Cook Islands, returned via Tonga and Samoa. The Hokulea accomplished many more voyages over the years, with the crowning achievement being a three-year tour of 85 ports in 26 countries.

anthro in the news 6/19/17

Credit: Next28/Wikimedia Commons

genetic modification/ genetic editing: word game?

The Washington Post reported on efforts by DuPont Pioneer, the division of DuPont that produces GMOs, to build consumer trust through focus groups, a website, and animated videos. The article includes commentary from Glenn Davis Stone, professor of anthropology and environmental studies at Washington University in St. Louis: …the controversy over GMOs has become so fractious that even independent scientists have “let their role in educating be trampled by their interest in convincing.” Many are so frustrated by the impasse, he added, that they’ll gloss over questions such as regulation, rather than risk giving the other side anti-GMO ammunition.

call for slow anthropology

Credit: Thomas Hawk/Flickr; https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode [no changes made].

The Huffington Post published an article by cultural anthropologist Paul Stoller, professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, in which he recommends cultural anthropology during the Trump presidency: “In the Age of Trump a slow and shared approach to human social relations fosters knowledge in a time of ignorance. It creates webs of social and emotional understanding that transcend our social and cultural differences. By way of edifying conversation, a slow and shared approach to human relations goes a long way toward reclaiming a humanity that fast culture threatens to decimate.” He spotlights the work of Lisbet Holtedahl, a Norwegian anthropologist and filmmaker, who embodies a slow and shared approach to her scholarship and her films.

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anthro in the news 6/12/17

A scene in Kashmir. Credit: Quora.com/Google Images Commons

when a national army threatens its people

The Wire published commentary by Partha Chatterjee, professor of anthropology & Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University, in which he addresses the question: When does a nation’s army start to believe that to preserve its authority, it must be feared by its own people? He writes: “The example of Israel that is often cited these days as the model from which India should learn is, in this context, particularly troubling. Israel is, properly speaking, a settler colony that regards Palestinians as a hostile and rebellious other that must be subdued and kept apart. Is that what India’s political leaders believe their relation must be to the people of Kashmir or Manipur or Nagaland? One can only hope that as a nation, we have not reached the edge of a slippery slope.”

racial politics and university admissions

Brazilian people. Credit: amren.com/Google Images Commons

The Guardian reported on challenges facing Brazilian higher education in improving enrollment rates of students in lower income categories and black, brown, and indigenous students. Brazil’s law of social quotas was passed in 2012 and was meant to be in full compliance by 2016.  A major problem is rooted in the practice of aspiring students reporting their own racial category. Abuses have been reported with white-looking students gaining admission by claiming to be non-white. The article quotes Rogerio Reis, an anthropology professor: “We saw the most incredible situations unfold…People would shave their heads, wear beanies, get a tan. Just a series of strategies to turn themselves black.” [Blogger’s note: self-stated “racial” identity and “looks” are extremely questionable criteria for determining access to a coveted university slot. Though far from perfect, an income/poverty measure seems preferable depending on the information source].


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anthro in the news 6/5/17

credit: Strategic Culture Foundation online journal 8/31/16

hope for democracy at the grassroots

Japan Today published commentary from social anthropologist Dame Henrietta Moore, director of the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London where she also holds the Chair in Culture, Philosophy and Design. Noting the seeming political disarray in several major democratic countries, she writes: “Yet all around the world, there are growing grassroots movements challenging this status quo. Recognizing the shortcomings of the political and economic systems around them, people are seizing the opportunity to effect change for themselves and their communities.”

gay sex conviction in Korean military decried

credit: Heezy Yang/The Korea Herald

The Korea Herald reported on the response from Americans living in the Republic of Korea to the recent conviction by the Korean military of a gay soldier for having consensual sex. The article includes comments from Timothy Gitzen, an activist for Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights for Korea and a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Minnesota: “…it’s state-sanctioned violence against its own people…It is the same argument people would use in the US to talk about segregation in the military between people of color and white soldiers…”


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anthro in the news 5/29/17

Ready-to-drink food. Credit: soylent.com

programmers hooked on Soylent

Salon reported on the popularity of Soylent, a meal replacement powder, in California’s Silicon Valley. The article quotes Jan English-Lueck, professor of anthropology at San Jose State and Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future. She has been studying Silicon Valley culture for years and points to how “people are fascinated with speed and efficiency.” Further, “Food is very much a part of how we express our culture…Soylent is one form of highly functional, highly efficient food that isn’t going to interfere with your ability be productive.”

luxury cultures

Scene from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Credit: Wikipedia

The Huffington Post published an interview with cultural anthropologist David Abèlés, director of the French-Argentine Centre in Buenos Aires, about his latest research on luxury markets and arts around the world. He comments: “We cannot distinguish the trends affecting the industry and commerce of luxury from broader changes within capitalism. Anthropology provides a multifaceted point of view by approaching luxury as a total social artefact.”

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anthropology/global health class explores durham ghost bikes

Ghost bike memorializing cyclist Tony Turner at the intersection of Roxboro Street and Chateau Road in Durham, North Carolina.

What are the relationships between body, health, mobility and urban environments? What happens when these connections are out of balance? And how do traffic and mobility—by vehicle or bicycle—fit into this equation?

These are some of the questions undergraduate students creatively explored this spring in Duke Global Health Institute assistant professor Harris Solomon’s Anthropology and Global Health seminar, which centered around the theme of injury, with ghost bikes as a case study.

The course culminated in three final small group projects—a podcast, a community action event and a website. Each group focused on a different ghost bike in Durham, North Carolina.

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