Study finds an abstinence-only sex class that works
On the news that teen pregnancy took a slight uptick in recent years, some blamed the abstinence-only sex education programs of the Bush years (not to mention a certain family from Alaska, as well as the siblings of certain pop singers). Now comes a study that found signs of success in an abstinence program, but there's a big caveat: They have to leave out the preaching.
The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, used randomized trials with a group of 662 African-American 6th and 7th graders. Groups were assigned to one of the following:
- An 8-hour abstinence-only program
- An 8-hour safer-sex-only program.
- An 8- or 12-hour program that combined both.
- An 8-hour control group that just focused on non-sex related health issues.
This abstinence program was carefully designed to try to avoid pitfalls others have encountered. It counseled children to delay sex “until they are ready” rather than until marriage, avoided a moralistic tone, and was careful not to disparage condom use, and to help children get rid of misconceptions about contraceptives if the subject came up during discussion.
In the group receiving abstinence-only education, 33 percent began having sex over the next two years, compared with 47 percent of those in the control group. Among the other groups, 52 percent of those taught only about safe sex became sexually active within two years, as did 42 percent of those in the comprehensive program.
The Obama administration has announced its intention to only fund only evidence-based teen-pregnancy programs – and it put sharp cuts in funds for abstinence-only programs. But under those criteria, the type of abstinence-only program used in this new study would be likely to qualify.
Locally, abstinence-only groups like More2Life have seen their federal funds dry up. But they are still moving forward with plans in the Tampa Bay area, hoping to raise private funds from parents and churches to keep their message going.
Even critics of the Bush-style sex talks such as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy liked this study, saying in a statement that, "Importantly, the study also shows that this particular abstinence-only program did not reduce condom use among the young teens who did have sex.”
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne