‘Robot’ baby care education program actually increases risk of teen pregnancy

The study had some surprising results.
The study had some surprising results.

A TELETHON Kids Institute study which had teenagers care for a ‘robot’ baby in a bid to reduce teen pregnancy has shown the programme actually increased the risk of falling pregnant.

Almost 3000 Western Australian school girls aged 13-15 participated in the Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) programme, with the results published today in esteemed medical journal The Lancet.

Half the students were given the VIP programme, while a control group received the standard health education curriculum.

You might also like: New book aims to shine a light on post-natal depression

Researchers were then able to access the students medical records until they turned 20 to see whether they had fallen pregnant.

The study found those who did the VIP programme had higher rates of pregnancy (17 per cent) compared to those who did not (11 per cent).

Those who participated in the VIP group also had lower rates of termination (53.8 per cent) compared to 60.1 per cent in the control group.

Lead Investigator Dr Sally Brinkman said the results of the test would help create better education systems.

“The Virtual Infant Parenting Programme is used across Australia and the world because it is thought to reduce rates of teen pregnancy,” Dr Brinkman said.

“This is the largest study of its kind and highlights that even the most well intentioned programs can have unexpected consequences.”

“Australia has the sixth-highest teen pregnancy rate out of 21 OECD countries and this study will help policy makers better tackle the issue.”

Dr Brinkman said the intervention was implemented from 2003 to 2006, and was stopped when early indications suggested it was failing.