Making it easier to make bad choices

More girls, especially Hispanic girls, are having babies at T.C. Williams High, where Patrick Welsh teaches. He wonders if the school is helping too much, shielding girls from the realities of teen pregnancy.

On the surface, Alexandria seems to be striving to stem teen pregnancy. Every high school student is required to take a “family life” course that teaches about birth control, sexually transmitted disease and teen pregnancy. The Adolescent Health Center, a clinic providing birth control, was built a few blocks from the school. The city-run Campaign on Adolescent Pregnancy sponsors workshops for parents and teens. But none of this coalesces to hit the teens with the message that getting pregnant is a disaster. And within the school, apart from the family life class, the attitude is laissez-faire, as if teachers and administrators are afraid to address the issue for fear of offending the students who have children.

. . . Are we making it easier for girls to make a bad choice and helping them avoid the truth about the consequences?

The high school’s day care center has a long waiting list: More than half the students’ children are three to five years old.

Pregnancy makes low-income girls eligible for a wide range of services.

The Health Department assigns a nurse to the girl, a group called Resource Mothers is notified to pick girls up at school or home and drive them to doctor’s appointments, and the Campagna Center plans day care for the child. The school dietitian plans nutritious meals for the mothers. The federally funded WIC program provides free formula, milk, cheese, peanut butter and the like to the teens and their babies. In Virginia, girls from 13 on up are eligible for free reproductive services — prenatal care, hospital visits and delivery.

But the young mother has to raise her child, usually without the help of the child’s father.

Update: More black children are being raised by two parents, reports the New York Times.

According to the bureau’s estimates, the number of black children living with two parents was 59 percent in 1970, falling to 42 percent in 1980, 38 percent in 1990 and 35 percent in 2004. In 2007, the latest year for which data is available, it was 40 percent.

For non-Hispanic whites, the figure in 2007 was 77 percent, down from 90 percent in 1970.

The Census Bureau now defines any two people who live with a child as parents, whether they’re related or not, notes Opinion Journal.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Miller T. Smith says:

    Remove all government support. That will force the families to deal on their own with the infant. Girls will then see that it is a “disaster” to have a child.

    And what of the child? What if it doesn’t get what it needs? Old school solution-take it away-forever. That will send an even deeper message.

    And the lesson gets taught at a very low cost! Bonus!

  2. I have a toddler. I have a husband, a good family income, and my own home (well, minus the large percent still owed to the bank). I cannot imagine a way that having an infant could be too easy.

    The quoted analysis seems also to consider only the mother’s remaining upbringing. Someone’s missing in that calculus.

  3. I have long moved away from the pregnancy is a disaster message. First, I found it hung around WAY too long amongst marriageable men in their middle ages. Second, there are too many real life examples to the contrary (consider for a moment what you are telling teens who were the infant who appeared in their own mother’s teen years). I still reinforce it as something that is far better if postponed.

    But, I don’t have any problem making certain that anyone who actually is a teen mother finds her way to any support that is available (and BTW–I would love to have someone point out to me just ONE teen who chose to get pregnant in order to get free trips to the doctor along with government cheese and peanut butter). What I find to be a much more profitable endeavor (albeit far more difficult) is to work at ensuring that the better choices are more accessible. That means work to expose kids of all ages to a wide range of experiences, hammering away at adults who think that kids from the ‘hood are ruined from birth and keeping pressures on to improve the education system–particularly for those kids who come from low-income backgrounds.

  4. In the bad old days before the pill, legal abortion and government services for unwed mothers, her support and that of her child was the responsibility of her family and that of the child’s father. Social stigma and social pressure dictated that a boy who got his girlfriend pregnant was expected to marry her. The social stigma associated with divorce meant that the girlfriend would remain only the girlfriend, since the man would not leave his family. The end result of all of the above, complete with the added social stigma of illegitimacy was that there was much less of it. Somehow, society was able to cope with the lack of widespread sexual activity among unmarried people. I was in college in the “everything goes” 60s, and most of us were too busy studying/working to join in; media depictions notwithstanding. I don’t know how to get that genie back in the bottle, but we’d all be better off if it could be done. There is certainly the possibility that the responsible kids who get a good education and don’t have kids outside of marriage will have strong objections to paying, via taxes, for the bad choices of their peers. Perhaps we could start with the idea that having illegitimate children you can’t support is just plain wrong? Also, stop the enabling services described in the column.

  5. Back in the Stone Age, when I was in high school, girls who were knocked up were embarrassed and considered to be bimbos. They are still bimbos, even if they aren’t still embarrassed.

  6. Andy Freeman says:

    > Second, there are too many real life examples to the contrary (consider for a moment what you are telling teens who were the infant who appeared in their own mother’s teen years).

    Are those actually counter-examples? Are their parents successful or are they just getting by? If the latter, is it really true that they don’t want more than their parents have, that they don’t want their children to have it better than they do?

    The lesson (in poor areas) can be “if you want to do better than your parents, you can’t be teen parents” or “if you want your kids to have a better life than you do, you can’t have them until you’re married and 25”.

    Of course, that runs into the whole “don’t try to better yourself” ethic.

  7. Andy Freeman says:

    > I would love to have someone point out to me just ONE teen who chose to get pregnant in order to get free trips to the doctor along with government cheese and peanut butter.

    They don’t do it for the govt cheese and peanut butter. They do it for the status. They’re told that they’ll get far more help than they actually do.

  8. “The lesson (in poor areas) can be “if you want to do better than your parents, you can’t be teen parents” or “if you want your kids to have a better life than you do, you can’t have them until you’re married and 25?.”

    Right–and all the girls who don’t have babies in high school went on to graduate college and they are living in the suburbs now, married to successful men.

  9. Our culture and our government have been making it easy to make bad choices since the 60s and we’re just now finding out about it!!!! And we wonder why the country, much less the schools, are in trouble?

    Forgive me, but this is not hard. Don’t have babies until you are married. Graduate from high school. Get a job–any job–and work hard. If you want to do so, further your education. Get married and stay married. Then have babies. These lessons are not being taught to the most vulnerable among us because we’re afraid of being “judgemental.” Poppycock! Myron Magnet (The Dream and the Nightmare: The 60s Legacy to the Underclass) had it right so many years ago. Quit teaching and supporting bad choices–for everyone.

  10. A few things: 1) I think we should keep in mind that we are talking about children here. They do stupid things, they make mistakes. If we demonize them for making that mistake, i dont know what message others will take from that, especially considering we are not dealing with a logical, well thought out decision to get pregnant in the first place. And by withholding help from the next generation in that family, it seems like we would just be helping the continuation of the 2) We have to find some way to address the cultural and emotional issues that lead to the teen pregnancies. In some circles, a woman’s unspoken only worth is to give birth to baby boys. In some instances, young girls are so hungry for affection that they will go along with whatever they have to when affection is perceived to be promised. 3.) The religious community has got to stop treating pregnant girls like they are some kind of shameful super-sinner. The bible doesnt speak against teen or premarital pregnancy, it speaks against premarital or extramarital sex, from what i understand. 4.) I in no way think getting pregnant as a teen, or even an unprepared adult, is a good idea, but i know plenty of teens who I would trust to make good decisions for a child before plenty of the married “adults” that i see raising children.

  11. I would love to have someone point out to me just ONE teen who chose to get pregnant in order to get free trips to the doctor along with government cheese and peanut butter

    I see irrelevancies are your strong point.

    When I was in school, girls who got pregnant were expelled. Yes, some girls got pregnant, but very few, and that was before birth-control pills. Girls didn’t get pregnant out of wedlock because there were real consequences. Patting them on the head and giving them all kinds of “free” goodies will do nothing to cut down on pregnancies.

    Subsidize a behavior if you want more of it. Punish it if you don’t. And yes, it really is that simple.

  12. “Girls didn’t get pregnant out of wedlock because there were real consequences. ”
    Is it accurate, and I really dont know, to say that the family structure was also more likely to be in place to provide good guidance to these kids? If you put the same teens, in the same situation/home that they are in now, into that time would the results be different? Again, I really dont know the answer on this…

  13. Yes, in the old days, more kids came from stable two-parent households. Family members looked after each other,too. Brothers made sure that other guys knew that they were looking out for their sisters and sisters were warned about guys who were bad risks. Parents set and enforced rules designed to help both sons and daughters make smart choices, and that included staying out of potentially risky situations. As grandmothers have been saying for generations, why buy the cow if you are getting the milk for free?

    More girls need to respect themselves enough to refuse to be treated as a disposable commodity and both guys and girls need to buy into the idea that making smart choices about education, sexual behavior, marriage and children gives them the best options for a comfortable future.

  14. You can count all the successful single parents you want but the most predicitve indicator of living in poverty is still having children out of wedlock. Plus it’s the intergenerational gift that keeps on giving.

  15. Subsidize a behavior if you want more of it. Punish it if you don’t. And yes, it really is that simple.

    No, it’s not. Your turn.

  16. Richard Aubrey says:

    Mike.
    It’s not?
    Prove it.
    And read Magnet.

  17. Lightly Seasoned says:

    You know in Finland, that country everybody uses to shame our system because the kids are so much smarter and better educated, they provide all kinds of supports to new mothers — teenagers or not. It seems to me that basic medical care and nutrition are something we, as a society, owe to all our children — not just middle class children. Bad nutrition and lack of medical care have long-term negative effects.

    Withholding these few supports is not going to eliminate teenage pregnancy (which, by the way, is actually down). Middle class white girls are still humiliated and still get abortions.

  18. Rightwing Prof said, “Subsidize a behavior if you want more of it. Punish it if you don’t. And yes, it really is that simple.”

    Amen.

    When she was 15, we gave our daughter the pill. That’s right, we gave her a bottle of aspirin. We told her that anytime she felt like having sex before she was married to take one aspirin, put it between her knees, and squeeze.

  19. There are laws of life that continue to work whether people acknowledge them or not. Having babies out of wedlock causes a huge number of problems. It’s bad for the mothers and bad for the babies. It’s also bad for the fathers, in ways harder to track. It’s bad for society. It’s bad for the schools. It’s bad.

    If we cannot say, loudly and repeatedly, that such conduct is unwise and selfish, selfish, selfish, then we can go on dealing more or less unsuccessfully with the problems forever.

    But once we have established our standard–babies should be born into marriages–I’d say go ahead and help the young women in reasonable ways. I wouldn’t “demonize” them for making a very human mistake, but I would insist on calling it a mistake and pointing out, over and over, how much better it would have been for everyone to have done things differently.

  20. The teen mom profiled in the WP piece had been getting Depo shots in secret since she was 13 and appears to be a victim of statutory rape. Doesn’t that bit of information bother anyone else?

    Maybe it’s time to stop pushing contraceptives for teens because it gives them a false sense of security about sex. 50% of all unplanned pregnancies are due to contraceptive failure, and teen girls have the highest failure rate of any age group.

  21. “Subsidize a behavior if you want more of it. Punish it if you don’t. And yes, it really is that simple.

    No, it’s not. Your turn.

    It’s not?
    Prove it.
    And read Magnet.”

    It’s hard to beat the reinforcements that nature builds into copulation and babies as well. They are little and cute for a reason.

    I haven’t read Magnet, but I have read a bit about Magnet. What’s more important is that G. W. Bush has read Magnet and built his domestic policy on that vision. Would anyone point to the successes?

    As mlu pointed out–no amount of shaming or shunning after the fact is going to put the horse back into the barn. The time to act is to prepare students for the very real temptations that accompany sexuality, provide them with real choices and a sense of control and engagement in the things that affect their life. It is ludicrous to expect them to make choices from a perspective of wisdom and health if everything else surrounding them is designed to let them know that they have limited life-options, that they will never amount to anything, that their opinions, viewpoints, struggles and life experience are categorically wrong.

    In five years those same babies that we have wanted to punish out of existence will be entering kindergarten and we will be blaming their mothers for the poor nutrition, health care and everything else that makes them unable to learn. Poverty is a vicious cycle–but it’s one that we all have a part in.

  22. “Poverty is a vicious cycle–but it’s one that we all have a part in.”

    Really? And what’s my part? To give my money that I earned to the people you say I should give it to?

  23. 2 centuries ago, when a parent or parents died family and friends divided up the children among themselves and raised them as their own. It was that or the kids would have to go out on their own. I have read about special trains that took orphans from urban areas to farm commuities to either become part of families of just laborers. Now we have social services. I cannot say the old solutions were better.

  24. Andy Freeman says:

    > Right–and all the girls who don’t have babies in high school went on to graduate college and they are living in the suburbs now, married to successful men.

    Not all of the ones who didn’t have babies in high school went to college and had wonderful lives, but the vast majority of the ones who went to college and had wonderful lives didn’t have babies in high school.

    The fast horse doesn’t always win the race, but it’s more likely to.

    Even if they don’t go to college, they, and the kids that they have later in life, typically have better lives.

    > As mlu pointed out–no amount of shaming or shunning after the fact is going to put the horse back into the barn.

    Straw man – nothing can be done to change the past.

    Not to defend shaming per se, but the point is not to influence the folks who have had babies but to influence the ones who haven’t had babies yet.

    > In five years those same babies that we have wanted to punish out of existence will be entering kindergarten and we will be blaming their mothers for the poor nutrition, health care and everything else that makes them unable to learn.

    Since, for the most part, said mothers decided to make said babies and were unable to properly provide for them, why shouldn’t we blame them?

    We can also blame folks who told them that everything would be okay, but why is any of this the fault of folks who said otherwise, who predicted the bad things that actually happened?

  25. From the article:

    “Cynthia’s days are grueling. She gets up at 6 a.m., feeds and dresses Angel and is at school by 7:50. She drops Angel off at the center, eats breakfast in the cafeteria and heads for class. Her mom picks her and the baby up at 3:15 p.m. At home, Cynthia eats, plays with Angel, starts homework and then leaves at 4:50 for her supermarket cashier’s job. She gets home at 10:10, does a little homework and goes to bed.”

    You are right. Having a day care center at school makes this mom’s life way too simple.

    But the point is that improving Angel’s lot in life (from birth to five)is one of the things that is likely to improve Angel’s chances in school and in life–which is a far more effective deterrent to early pregnancy that hyping up disastrous consequences, making life with a toddler even more difficult than it already is, or going through the things that were common when I was in school (the girls who mysteriously disappeared to visit a relative, the ones who came back to the dormitory bleeding and feverish in the middle of the night, or the quicky weddings).

  26. Soapbox0916 says:

    As a former scientist whose current job now involves working with the education of homeless children, homeless in general, and the ex-offender population, I really don’t consider myself a bleeding heart, but I believe the reality of these populations and the services provided to them is vastly different that what the average person actually imagines it to be. Plus I am the keeper of the local data as well, so I have hard cold data to base my opinions on as well. I see how much these babies/children suffer if the parent(s) don’ receive help from somebody, whether it be family or some other entity. The longer they go without help, the more damage that is done and ultimately more money that is required to try to correct the problem if it can still be helped.

    These services are being provided for the benefit of the babies of these teens so that the babies will suffer less and have a chance at a life. Helping the parents have a better life helps the baby. Preventing conception is best, but that ship has already sailed by the time the baby is born. A baby should not die or suffer because society wants to punish teen mothers. I have no problem with stigma or shame on both of the parents, but all babies have to be taken care of by somebody.

    It would be nice to think that if aid is cut that family would step in and help, but this is definitely not the case for many pregnant teens. I think that might have been true in say maybe the 1950s, but not any more. We are too far removed from that time and culture now. There are indeed problem fallouts from the social revolution that have caused more harm than good, but that need to be addressed at a macro level. There are alternatives for preventing teen pregnancy that do no involve punishing the babies directly.

  27. It is ludicrous to expect them to make choices from a perspective of wisdom and health if everything else surrounding them is designed to let them know that they have limited life-options, that they will never amount to anything, that their opinions, viewpoints, struggles and life experience are categorically wrong.

    Under such circumstances it would indeed be ludicrous. But this of course merely raises the question, do these circumstances actually apply in the USA today? I have heard American culture criticised as much for giving poor Americans the idea that they can achieve the American dream (thus stopping them from uniting with other oppressed workers the world over, breaking their shackles and overthrowing the rich capitalist pigs), and I have also heard it criticised for encouraging the belief that everyone can go to college, and for encouraging unearned self-esteem amongst its school children. These theories can’t all be right.

    Also, the USA just elected a bloke called Barrack Obama, whose skin colour is not exactly porcelain white. Whatever you think of the guy as a future President, it’s one hell of a message about opportunity in the USA. I am not an American, but I don’t think such circumstances as you describe actually apply in your country.

    Poverty is a vicious cycle–but it’s one that we all have a part in.

    If everyone’s responsible for a problem, no one’s responsible for it.

    But the point is that improving Angel’s lot in life (from birth to five)is one of the things that is likely to improve Angel’s chances in school and in life–which is a far more effective deterrent to early pregnancy that hyping up disastrous consequences, making life with a toddler even more difficult than it already is, or going through the things that were common when I was in school (the girls who mysteriously disappeared to visit a relative, the ones who came back to the dormitory bleeding and feverish in the middle of the night, or the quicky weddings).

    Can you please cite your evidence behind this claim that this is a more effective deterrent?

    I don’t have any particular stake in this argument one way or another, but the amount of certainty you display here really seems excessive.

  28. Andy Freeman says:

    > But the point is that improving Angel’s lot in life (from birth to five)is one of the things that is likely to improve Angel’s chances in school and in life–which is a far more effective deterrent to early pregnancy

    Umm, helping Angel/her kid does nothing to deter her from the early motherhood that she’s already done.

    As to whether it deters other people, how exactly does making early pregnancy easier (as this help is intended to do) deter someone else?

    > that hyping up disastrous consequences,

    Unless Margo believes that early pregnancy is not a disaster, it’s not hype, it’s telling the truth.

    Does Margo really believe that potential teen mothers shouldn’t know the consequences of being teen mothers?

    > making life with a toddler even more difficult than it already is

    Talk about hype. Telling potential teen mothers about the consequences of teen motherhood doesn’t make life harder for teen mothers.

  29. Tracy W.

    There is a lot of evidence regarding the long-term effects of quality early childhood education. There is a pretty good matrix here: http://www.publicpolicyforum.org/Matrix.htm, which includes such effects as reduced welfare dependence (which I think that many on this board would include as being very closely linked to teen-age pregnancy).

    Andy–yes it is true that helping the child of a teenage mother will not deter the mother from having gotten pregnant(?). It may impact the likelihood of that child from repeating the pattern.

  30. I don’t know much about these things, but I have long felt that there are two things that motivate girls into early pregnancy, and therefore need to be recognized and dealt with.

    First, a young mother in any society is going to be the center of attention, especially among women. I would expect this to be very appealing to girls, especially those who don’t get much attention in other ways.

    And second, a young mother has power. There are many decisions to be made about babies. In our society the crucial decisions are reserved to the mother, especially if the father is peripheral. I wonder if this sense of power might not have quite an appeal.

    Neither the attention nor the power last very long, I suppose. I would imagine that by the baby’s first birthday the excitement is all over. But until that time, the attention and power are inevitable. I think girls know that, and I can’t really see any way to change that.

    Teaching in a community college I see a little bit of the hardship young mothers live with. They don’t have nearly the time available that they need, and learning algebra takes a lot of time. They miss a lot of classes, and simply finding time to study is a problem. I don’t have statistics, but it certainly appears that many talented single mothers make B’s and C’s in my classes, when they could be making A’s if they could only be full time students. And many less talented single mothers struggle for C’s and D’s.

    If life is hard for young single mothers, does it follow that they regret the choices they made? Probably they do not, because they do love their children. Even if they do regret their choices, to admit it would reflect on their love of their children.

    Are their any programs that pair up vulnerable girls with single mothers of two-year-olds? Could that do some good?

  31. Well, I’d have to say that few of the teenage mothers wanted to be a mother… the pregnancy was more of an unintended consequence of some random sexual encounter.
    No form of protection is guaranteed, and no self-respecting advocate of sex ed can state that sex amongst teens is ok. Ultimately, we need to send a message as a society that abstinence is the best prevention.

  32. I agree with Brian Rude about the attention factor, especially in a community where teen pregnancy is common and accepted and more especially in a community where working hard to get good grades/planning for college is not only uncommon but ridiculed.

    Yes, that does happen, even in some ethnic groups in affluent suburban communities. I have seen it and seen kids moved to private schools to remove them from the poison of that message.

    In addition to dealing with the girl issues, I think it’s necessary to deal with the guy ones. If there is a significant age differential, even if not legally statutory rape, and if siring (I refuse to call it fathering) children is seen as desirable within the guy community, there is additional pressure on girls to cooperate. Needless to say, not being forced to support children is a huge issue.

  33. Cardinal Fang says:

    > But the point is that improving Angel’s lot in life (from birth to five)is one of the things that is likely to improve Angel’s chances in school and in life–which is a far more effective deterrent to early pregnancy

    Umm, helping Angel/her kid does nothing to deter her from the early motherhood that she’s already done.

    Angel is not the mother. It’s the baby. I think we can state with some certainty that Angel will not be experiencing early motherhood, since he is a boy.

  34. Cardinal:

    One assumes that Angel’s teen mom had a partner?

  35. What do people know about girl’s living in poverty that don’t get pregnant?

  36. Margo – unless I’ve missed something, that link only looks at early childhood programmes, not at any of the other methods of deterring teenage pregnancy you listed.

  37. Tracy:

    I don’t know that there was ever any data collected on the illegality of abortion as a deterrent. The rate of illegal abortions, of course was higher. Without the appropriate oversight that comes with approved medical procedures, we know that the field was open for not only benevolent souls willing to take on the legal risk for desperate women and girls, but also folks of questionable repute willing to take advantage for some quick cash. You might want to read something by Margaret Sanger if you are really interested. She worked as a public health nurse and was well acquainted with some of the uglier side of those wonderful ages in which all pregnancies were supposed to take place within marriage.

  38. Margo – you claimed that early childhood programmes were better than hyping up the disastrous effects of teenage pregnancy and maintaining the stigma of it on girls. I am pro-choice and I have already read about the horrors of illegal abortions, but that was not what you were discussing earlier, or at least only part (and it strikes me as entirely plausible to maintain the stigma against teenage pregnancy and simultaneously have legal abortions). Can you please your evidence behind this claim that early childhood programmes are a more effective deterrent?

  39. Andy Freeman says:

    > Andy–yes it is true that helping the child of a teenage mother will not deter the mother from having gotten pregnant(?). It may impact the likelihood of that child from repeating the pattern.

    Helping a teen mother may help the kid not get pregnant?

    That’s grasping at straws.

  40. OK Tracy–here it is. There is data to show that early childhood programs are effective in producing healthy children who avoid a host of ills. I am not the one who claims that there is any data on the effects of playing the disaster card. Furthermore, I don’t believe that there is any. If any of the defenders would like to prove me wrong, I welcome their data. Until such time, I stand by my statement.

  41. Margo, the reason I asked you for evidence is that I suspected that there wasn’t any data, and you were just making up your claim about your favoured programme being the more effective one. I suppose I should be happy that my suspicion turned out to be right, I am however just disappointed. (And even further disappointed that argument standards have gotten so low that you are happy to so blatantly acknowledge that you don’t have any data to support your claim – hypocrisy at least recogises the existance of virtue).

    As a favour, next time you make a statement based on no evidence, and I ask you for your supporting evidence, can you just say that you have none right away?

  42. Tracy:

    Not sure where the attitude is coming from, or where the ideas about scientific research come from. One does not assume that an untested hypothesis is correct until proven wrong. There are many fervent posters on this board who swear, with no evidence, that shunning, ostracizing and publicizing to teens that pregnancy equals disaster is an deterrent, the only deterrent, and that further supports for teen parents and their children (such as early childhood education, nutrition and health care) are doing something to increase the teen birth rate. If you, or anyone, can offer support for any of these beliefs, then please offer them and we can stack them up against the evidence that does exist to demonstrate the value of such programs.

    I am not a supporter of teen-age parenthood, although I am sure that many would make that accusation. I am a strong supporter of sticking to what works. Early childhood education works for those who participate. Medical care and nutrition work. Removing them from children whose parents are young and unmarried has nothing (that I know of) to recommend it.

  43. One does not assume that an untested hypothesis is correct until proven wrong.

    One can assume whatever one likes and people frequently do. I answered many physics questions at school which asked me to assume no friction and I know my classmates did the same. Assumptions need have nothing to do with reality. Indeed, I assume that there is an objective reality out there because I find solipsism boring, not because the hypothesis has been properly tested and shown to be correct.

    However, when you said But the point is that improving Angel’s lot in life (from birth to five)is one of the things that is likely to improve Angel’s chances in school and in life–which is a far more effective deterrent to early pregnancy that [sic] hyping up disastrous consequences, … [and etc], I read you as not merely making an assumption, but making an argument about the way reality really is (with the implicit assumption that it exists). If you had said something along the lines of “I assume that early childhood interventions are a far more effective deterrent to early pregnancy than hyping up disastrous consequences [and etc]”, I would not have developed this attitude. Or, if the moment I had first questioned your evidence, you had said something like “Oh, my mistake, I was just assuming an answer that suited me and forgot to say so”, I would have developed rather less of an attitude.

    And then, in your previous comment, you said that you stand by your statement unless any defender proves you wrong. As the hypothesis that early childhood intervention “is a far more effective deterrent” is, by your admission, untested (and you don’t believe that the data even exists to test it), you are thereby assuming that it is correct until proven wrong. So I conclude that you also do assume that at least one untested hypothesis is correct until proven wrong, and rather less obviously than is done in physics questions.

    If you had limited yourself to pointing out the lack of evidence to support the others’ assertions I wouldn’t have questioned you. It was the strong asssertion of your own that childhood interventions were “a far more effective deterrent”, that aroused my curiousity as to what evidence you were basing your assertion on, and your complete lack of concern that you had no data to support this comparative assertion that really irritated me, particularly after I had had to ask twice for such data, rather than you just openly saying you didn’t have any the first time.

    I don’t object to you assuming that an untested hypothesis is correct, but can you please try to make it clearer in the future when you are making an assumption and when you are making an actual argument?