In this image from video released by MTV, teen mother Maci is shown with her son Bentley in a scene from the teen reality series, "Teen Mom."
Births by teenage mothers are on the decline and it could be thanks to an unlikely source: MTV.
A new study released on Monday from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the show "16 and Pregnant" and its spinoff "Teen Mom" might have helped prevent more than 20,000 births by teenage mothers in 2010, The New York Times reported.
Each episode of "16 and Pregnant" follows a different teenager through her pregnancy, childbirth and first weeks of motherhood. "Teen Mom" follows the young mothers through their early months and years of parenthood.
By documenting the consequences of unprotected sex and the challenges of being a young parent, the show played a role in reducing the rate of teenage births, according to the researchers Melissa Kearney of the Hamilton Project and Phillip Levine of Wellesley College. They say the programs reduced the teenage birthrate by almost 6 percent. Their research also found that social media posts and online searches related to contraception increased when the show was on.
Teen pregnancy fell faster in areas where teenagers were watching more MTV programming, they said. Kearney and Levine used birth records and Nielsen television ratings for their research and focused on the period after 2009, when "16 and Pregnant" debuted on MTV.