Monday, February 15, 2010

The Effectiveness of Abstinence Education

The debate rages on about the effectiveness of abstinence-only education in delaying the start of sexual activity in adolescents.  In December, a new study (using federal data) suggested that abstinence education may actually have a negative effect.  From the Washington Post:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

"Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."

The study is the latest in a series that have raised questions about programs that focus on encouraging abstinence until marriage, including those that specifically ask students to publicly declare their intention to remain virgins. The new analysis, however, goes beyond earlier analyses by focusing on teens who had similar values about sex and other issues before they took a virginity pledge.

Read the Washington Post story here or the study itself in the Journal of Pediatrics here.

A study published this month in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, however, suggests that some abstinence-only education may be effective at curbing the onset of sexual activity in inner city youth.

Read more about this study here.

AC

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