Britney Spears’s sister’s teenage pregnancy

So Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant. At sixteen. She announced this apparently news-worthy information through OK! Magazine, and everyone from the Huffington Post to MTV feels compelled to weigh in on this one. So, I figured, why not me too? I mean, this is clearly the biggest teenage sex scandal of 2007 (given how close to the end of the year it is, I feel pretty comfortable saying that).

So people are outraged. They are railing against Britney for being a bad role model older sister. They are railing against Jamie Lynn’s mother Lynn Spears for not teaching either of her daughters about birth control or morality (depending on which side of that fence they’re on). They are railing against Jamie Lynn for not making good choices. They are railing against abstinence-only “sex education” for not teaching about birth control. They are railing against comprehensive sex education for not teaching teenagers to wait until marriage to have sex. The list goes on.

But here’s the thing: about 750,000 teenagers get pregnant in the United States every year. About half that number of teenagers give birth every year. Some of those teenagers are actually pre-teenagers, and are as young as 10 or 11. What I’m trying to say is that Jamie Lynn is hardly alone. While I understand that it useful for people to latch on to one emblem of the problem and focus on her, it is inappropriate to do that in this case.

Yelling and screaming our heads off about what a poor mother Lynn Spears is, about what a poor mother and sister Britney Spears is, and how horrible it is that Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant will do nothing to help the real issue of teenage pregnancy or teenage parenting.

On the other hand, teaching teenagers real information about sex will address the issue at hand.  So let’s spend our energy doing that instead.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Hello Karen,

    Thanks for the work you put into your blog! I am glad I found it, I am doing my PhD (Education) at the moment and the title of my thesis thus far is: A critical discourse analysis of the complexities of teenage pregnancy and motherhood in Australian society. I am an academic at the University of Canberra (Australia’s Capital city). I would really like to connect with you at the some time to discuss the various aspects surrounding this topic.

    Iain Hay

  2. The funny(?) thing about Jamie Spears pregnancy, is that jsut 60 years ago the median age of marriage for women was 20 (this from an NPR story on delayed adulthood). So historically speaking she’s not far off the average.

    I wish her the best. She’s got a tough road ahead, with the glossy press circling like buzzards.

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