Girls given imitation babies to look after in an effort to deter teenage pregnancy could actually be more likely to get pregnant, according to a study.
Researchers in Australia found 8% of girls who used the dolls were expecting by the age of 20, compared with 4% of those who did not.
The number of girls having at least one abortion was also higher among girls given the dolls: 9% compared to 6%.
‘Baby Think It Over’ dolls were used in a Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) programme which began in 57 schools in Western Australia in 2003.
During the three-year study, published in The Lancet, 1267 girls aged 13 to 15 used the simulators – which need to be fed and changed, while 1567 learned the normal health curriculum.
The idea originated in the United States and is used in 89 countries.
Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia are now warning that such programmes may be a waste of public money.
The dolls cost over $1000 each (£757).
One of the academics involved, Dr Sally Brinkman, said it showed the dolls could have “unexpected consequences”.
“Australia has the sixth highest teen pregnancy rate out of 21 OECD countries and this study will help policymakers better tackle the issue,” she said.