Secret pacts between teens that result in destructive behavior have always left the surrounding adults bewildered, perplexed and shocked. Otherwise-normal kids who often never displayed deviant or self-destructive behavior, suddenly veer wildly off course with a group of their friends and engage in harmful behavior, per ABC. In this case it’s pregnancy pacts — an unsafe sexual behavior with the end goal of becoming pregnant. While it may seem like a simple-if-horrible example of peer pressure, these types of secret group pacts amongst adolescents actually all have similar psychological explanations and profiles.
“Teen pact behavior — whether to get pregnant or to commit suicide — has the same underlying characteristics,” Dr. Carole Lieberman, Beverly Hills psychiatrist and a clinical faculty member at UCLA, told ABC. “The act the teenagers conjure up together is forbidden and self-destructive, and therefore must be kept secret.” She went on to explain that “The members of the pact develop trust, camaraderie and rebelliousness by sharing this secret…These bonds then impel them to commit the forbidden act that they wouldn’t have the courage to do on their own.”
Why teens follow through with these pacts
Back in 2008, a story about a high school in Gloucester, Mass., gripped the country when it was revealed that many, many more girls than normal had requested pregnancy tests from the school’s clinic (via Inside Edition). As it turned out, 17 girls had become pregnant, which at a school of only 1200 students, was four times higher than the pregnancy rate among students the previous school year, per ABC. When questioned about the fathers of the children, it was discovered that one of the fathers was a local homeless man. This left parents and adults confused about what could have inspired young people to make such rash and life-altering decisions.
Inside Edition reported that some believed it could have been related to pop culture at the time, which seemed to glorify young teen mothers like Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin. However, ABC reported it’s also likely caused by teenagers’ inability to consider long-term consequences. Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and a professor at Emory University’s School of Medicine, told the outlet that teens “don’t think through the future consequences that come with a lot of these decisions.” She went on to lament that, “I think that’s the big challenge in this pact; most 17-year-old girls are not ready to be mothers. This is something that will alter the decisions they make for the rest of their lives.”
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