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Our Generation

March 13, 2009

Palin, Rihanna, teens can learn from lessons


AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — One is a soft-spoken teenager who never sought fame, but was thrust into the national spotlight at the most delicate moment of her young life. The other is a glamorous pop star, a fixture in celebrity magazines and on countless iPods.

Bristol Palin and Rihanna have absolutely nothing in common — except that they are two young women whose private turmoil is currently playing out in the harsh glare of the public sphere.

Each has also, unwittingly, become the face of a pressing social issue — a source of teachable moments on teen pregnancy for Palin, domestic abuse for Rihanna. And each, despite all the public fascination, is having an experience that experts in those fields say mirrors that of thousands of ordinary young women across America.

Palin was already five months pregnant when she emerged into public view last year, clutching her baby brother as her mother, soon-to-be GOP superstar Sarah Palin, introduced herself to the world as John McCain's new running mate.

The pregnancy story soon broke, and campaign handlers rushed her boyfriend, Levi Johnston, a high school hockey player, to Minnesota. They appeared together on the Republican convention stage, and Sarah Palin said the two would soon be married.

In December, their son Tripp was born, and in a recent interview on Fox News, Bristol called Johnston a "real hands-on Dad." But this week, Johnston confirmed the couple had split "a while ago," and then things got ugly, with Bristol implying in a statement that her former fiance and his sister had been speaking to the tabloids for financial gain.

The breakup may have launched a thousand blog posts. But in the scheme of things it was a typical outcome, say experts on teen pregnancy.

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