Season 1 of '16 and Pregnant'
Courtesy of MTV
August 4, 2022 8:32 AM EDT

The series 16 and Pregnant premiered at a moment of cultural fascination with the experience of teenage pregnancy and parenthood, two years after Juno and one year before The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Each episode of the show featured a different teen, following the young woman from midway through her pregnancy into the early weeks of becoming a parent. Creator Lauren Dolgen was clear about her intention to put forward a show that, she told Slate in 2011, “would give recognition to the audience that there are serious consequences to not being responsible for your sexual health.” Whether 16 and Pregnant—which inspired spin-offs like Teen Mom, Teen Mom: 2, and Teen Mom: Young and Pregnant—was effective in that mission is debatable. While teen birth rates did drop in the two years after 16 and Pregnant premiered (a fact that some believe can be attributed partly to the series, while others disagree), the show was criticized for spotlighting teen pregnancy without delving into its complexities or the challenges of raising children. What the show can claim responsibility for is being one of the first reality television series to explicitly attempt to make social change, whether it was successful or not. —Annabel Gutterman

Correction, August 8

The original version of this story misstated the creator of 16 and Pregnant. It is Lauren Dolgen, not Jessica Grose.

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