Evidence that abstinence works

Monday, February 8, 2010

With local schools depending on state and federal funding, it's inevitable that political considerations will follow.

Few programs are more controversial than sex education, and with the shift from right to left in Washington, "abstinence only" programs like those favored by conservatives and religious groups have fallen out of favor. President Obama's budget approves $114 million for a new "teenage pregnancy prevention" initiative that will fund only programs that have evidence of success -- which seems like a reasonable requirement, especially critics of abstinency only programs.

They might be chagrined to discover, however, that a new study by reputable scientists has found strong evidence that some "just say no" programs actually do work.

"Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention Over 24 Months," followed 662 African American students in grades 6 and 7.

The study included an 8-hour abstinence-only intervention targeted to reduce sexual intercourse, an 8-hour safer sex-only intervention targeted to increase condom use, 8-hour and 12-hour comprehensive interventions targeted to reduce sexual intercourse and increase condom use, and an 8-hour health-promotion control intervention targeting health issues unrelated to sexual behavior.

During the 24-month follow-up, of those taking the abstinence-only class were 33.5 percent ever had sexual intercourse compared to 48.5 percent in a control group. Fewer abstinence-only participants, 20.6 percent than control participants (29.3 percent) had sex during the previous three months, and also had fewer reports of multiple partners than the control group.

If the study is true, federal officials should find room in the budget to support abstinence-only programs designed to reduce teen pregnancies.

Government funding can never replace the most effective means of teen pregnancy prevention, of course, personal standards instilled in the home.

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  • If our goal is simply to prevent sexual conduct, than these figures might be pointing in this direction. But many safer sex educators are also greatly concerned with the safety of these sexual behaviors. Not having sex is the only 100% way to avoid pregnancy or STIs, but for people who make the conscious choice to engage in sexual activities, more information on safety is necessary. Our kids still aren't safe if the ones having sex aren't using a barrier method.

    Some of the biggest problems with abstinence-only education are that students who are already choosing to be sexually active are left out of the conversation and we aren't preparing any of them to be safe if they do change their minds and decide to have sex.

    The most important thing we can do is have honest conversations about sexuality, including what to do if a person decides to have a sexual experience.

    -- Posted by mefriesen on Mon, Feb 8, 2010, at 2:06 PM
  • Couldnt agree with you more, my mother had both conversations with me at a very young age while urging absitance. I however was told everything about being safe and what would happen if I wasnt. I felt open enough to go back to her with all questions through out school, and did choose to wait until marriage. While all my friends took a different road.

    The important thing is to have an open line of communication let questions be asked and make your children feel comfertable while still trying to get the message of your values across.

    -- Posted by notsmalltime on Mon, Feb 8, 2010, at 10:16 PM
  • When did this become the schools responsibility and stop being the parents?

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Tue, Feb 9, 2010, at 6:05 PM
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