Parents Strongly Favor Abstinence
Special Report - August 25, 2010
After hundreds of concerned citizens submitted Freedom of Information Requests for the public release of a national survey that shows that most parents and adolescents oppose premarital sexual activity, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) responded on August 23 by officially posting the full report on its website. The report, entitled the “National Survey of Adolescents and their Parents: Attitudes and Opinions About Sex and Abstinence,” was conducted for the Administration for Children and Families and is described as a “public opinion survey of a nationally representative matched sample of 1,000 adolescents and their parents.” Although the survey was conducted in 2008, and its findings were presented at two national public health conferences in 2009, the DHHS withheld public release of the report until this week.
Lisa Rue, an assistant professor at the University of Northern Colorado, says that although she requested the report from the DHHS twice, she was repeatedly denied access to it. In an August 2 editorial, she wrote: “The second denial from the Obama administration leaves me to reflect on the role of cultural values with regard to prevention science. If we are truly interested in learning how to prevent two critical epidemics currently devastating our country (out-of-wedlock child bearing and sexually transmitted infections) then the nationally representative findings provide momentum and support for accessing cultural values of parents and children which promote optimal health choices for adolescents.”
Key findings from the survey about parental attitudes include:
- About 70 percent of parents in the survey “are opposed to premarital sex both in general” and for their own children;
- 70 percent of parents in the survey agreed that “Having sexual intercourse is something only married people should do.”
- The majority of the parents in the survey said they favored “adolescents receiving abstinence messages from multiple sources,” including 83 percent of parents who favored adolescents receiving these messages at school.
- When asked to name their preferred source of information for their child on sexual issues, the majority of parents (92 percent) said “a family member.”
- The majority of parents believed that they have a strong influence over their child’s sexual behavior (67 percent of parents disagreed with the statement, “At your adolescent's age right now, there is little you can do to keep him or her from engaging in sexual intercourse.”)
- Parents who attended religious services regularly expressed “more conservative views about sex and abstinence, more restrictive views about adolescent sexual behavior, and greater self-perceived control over adolescent sexual activity.”
Among adolescents, the survey found similar opposition to premarital sex, although not to the same degree as among parents. For example, 53 percent of adolescents in the survey strongly or somewhat strongly agreed with the statement: “It is against your values to have sexual intercourse before marriage.” Additionally, 62 percent of adolescents strongly or somewhat strongly agreed that “Having sexual intercourse is something only married people should do.” The survey also found that the overwhelming majority of adolescents (92 percent) said they had learned about “at least one specific topic related to sex and abstinence in a class or program.” For example, 84 percent had learned how to resist pressures to have sexual intercourse; 71 percent had learned about waiting to have sexual intercourse until marriage and 44 percent had learned how religious values relate to sexual intercourse in a class or program. Similar to the findings among parents, adolescents who attended religious services on a regular basis were more likely to hold conservative views about sexual activity and abstinence among adolescents in general, and about their own sexual behavior.
Study Says Abstinence Message Works - February 10, 2010
Ten Reasons to Keep Abstinence Education in N.C. - FNC: July 2009
Report Highlights Abstinence Benefits - June 9, 2008
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