Abstinence Programs Prove Effective
Special Report - March 3, 2010
The overwhelming majority of studies of abstinence-only education programs report statistically positive findings, according to a new report by Christine Kim and Robert Rector at The Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Backgrounder, entitled “Evidence on the Effectiveness of Abstinence Education: An Update,” analyzed the findings of 22 studies of abstinence education programs.
According to the findings, 17 of the 22 studies of abstinence education programs “reported statistically significant positive results, such as delayed sexual initiation, and reduced levels of early sexual activity, among youth who received abstinence education.” In contrast, only five of the 22 studies in the review did not “report any significant positive results.” Six of the 22 studies reviewed involved virginity pledge programs. Of these six, five studies showed positive findings.
“Teens who engage in sexual activity risk a host of negative outcomes including STD infection, emotional and psychological harm, and out-of-wedlock childbearing,” the Heritage report concludes. “Genuine abstinence education is therefore crucial to the physical and psycho-emotional well-being of the nation's youth. In addition to teaching the benefits of abstaining from sexual activity until marriage, abstinence programs focus on developing character traits that prepare youths for future-oriented goals. When considering an effective prevention program aimed at changing teen sexual behavior, lawmakers should consider all of the available empirical evidence and restore funding for abstinence education.”
The 17 abstinence education studies with positive findings that were reviewed by The Heritage Foundation include a February 2010 study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. As we previously reported, that study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that an abstinence-only sex education program was better at helping pre-teens delay sexual activity than a “safer” sex-only program, two comprehensive sex education programs, and a general health education program. The study concluded that, “Theory-based abstinence-only interventions may have an important role in preventing adolescent sexual involvement.”
“Despite the misinformation that is being spread by some anti-abstinence groups in our state, North Carolina’s sex education law still mandates the teaching of abstinence-until-marriage as the expected standard of behavior for students,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Studies like this one help explain whyafter much debate last yearthe General Assembly chose to leave all of the abstinence-until-marriage components in the original 1995 law intact when it passed the ‘Healthy Youth Act’ last year. Authentic abstinence until marriage education can still be taught in North Carolina, and in fact should be, according to the law.”
The North Carolina Family Policy Council recently created a new issue brief that outlines the correct interpretation of the “Healthy Youth Act,” which was enacted by the General Assembly last year and goes into effect in the 2010-11 school year. The issue brief, “Abstinence Education Is Still Required to Be Taught in North Carolina Schools; Comprehensive Sex Education Is NOT,” can be downloaded here.
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