Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Study shows abstinence education does work

Abstinence-only programs might work, study says
February 2, 2010 by Rob Stein

Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can persuade a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Only about a third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active.

The findings are the first clear evidence that an abstinence program could work.

“I think we’ve written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence,” said John B. Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who led the federally funded study. “Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used.”

The research, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, comes amid intense debate over how to reduce sexual activity, pregnancies, births and sexually transmitted diseases among children and teenagers. After falling for more than a decade, the numbers of births, pregnancies and STDs among U.S. teens have begun increasing.

The Obama administration eliminated more than $170 million in annual federal funding targeted at abstinence programs after a series of reports concluded that the approach was ineffective. Instead, the White House is launching a $114 million pregnancy prevention initiative that will fund only programs that have been shown scientifically to work — a program the administration on Monday proposed expanding to $183 million.

“This new study is game-changing,” said Sarah Brown, who leads the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “For the first time, there is strong evidence that an abstinence-only intervention can help very young teens delay sex.”

The study is the first to evaluate an abstinence program using a carefully designed approach comparing it with several alternative strategies and following subjects for an extended period of time, considered the kind of study that produces the highest level of scientific evidence.

“This takes away the main pillar of opposition to abstinence education,” said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who wrote the criteria for federal funding of abstinence programs. “I’ve always known that abstinence programs have gotten a bad rap.”

Longtime critics of the approach praised the study, saying it provides strong evidence that such programs can work and might merit taxpayer support.

abstinence, children, culture, education, family, health, ideology, news, philosophy, political correctness, public policy, research, science, sex, study

Filed under: abstinence, children, culture, education, family, health, ideology, news, philosophy, political correctness, public policy, research, science, sex, study

5 Responses

  1. There’s such a huge hole in the logic of this study. It makes me angry to see it ignored. People are bio-engineered to want to have sex once puberty PEAKS. Of COURSE you can have more influence on getting 12 yr olds to refrain from having sex! That says NOTHING about what they will do by age 17, when hormones will trump any amount of religion, education or philosophy you try to control them with. Humans are animals, mammals. Intent and education can’t change that.

    Teaching kids that it’s a good idea to wait is ok, but that’s less important than sex education.

    Unless you teach kids how to manage the RESULTS of sex, you abate none of the problems of STDs and unwanted pregnancy that happen in the US more than in other “developed” countries.

    (I posted about why TV News Sucks on my arts & philosophy blog.)

    • foxenterprises says:

      I believe the report indicated the study did, in fact, address other aspects of sex, including condom use. That being the case, I’m not sure it’s fair to assume there was nothing in the abstinence curriculum about how to deal with the results of sex.

      But it’s also not fair to assume ALL teenagers have sex, even acknowledging the realities of biology. It seems to me the study is showing that education, when geared to waiting until the teenager is more mature, does actually have a significant effect on the situation. That argument may not hold much weight in our hedonistic culture but some people consider acting like animals unhealthy for society.

  2. Well, that’s good if it did address condoms etc. but your “acting like animals” statement betrays your position. We don’t have any choice about it. We ARE animals. That we happen to be the animals with the most interest in self-absorption, politics and religion or making art doesn’t make us not animals.

    I said we are designed to WANT to have sex. I didn’t say all teens do it. No matter how many or few do, it’s still paramount to provide good information, as is done to very young students in other countries.

    Thank you for your considered response.

    • foxenterprises says:

      You may have noticed I did not deny we are animals. However, there are innumerable examples in society of how it is actually a bad idea to ACT like we have no more intelligence or morality than an instinct-driven, wild creature. I don’t doubt “good” education is quite important in this regard, but I’m not convinced the sex education in other countries is so “good” considering the state of the culture in those countries. It seems the “hey, it’s natural” argument promotes an unhealthy or even hostile attitude toward sex.

  3. True, you didn’t say we aren’t animals, so I beg pardon. I call the sex ed in other countries “good” because they have less teen pregnancy and fewer STDs than we do. I wouldn’t know how to evaluate the entire “goodness” of a culture, including ours. That’s beyond my pay grade.

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