Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Abstinence Education Works

February 01st, 2010 by G.

A new study finds that abstinence education works.

According to a paper to be published in the February Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, when black teens were randomly assigned to four different types of sex-ed instruction, the abstinence-educated teens stayed chaste longer (if they did go sexually active, they were no less likely to use contraception than teens from the other groups).

This sounds like good evidence. Certainly the idea that teaching abstinence promotes abstinence is common-sensical. As I’ve grown older I’ve also grown more sceptical of all those contrarian claims that sound so cool: Abstinence education promotes sex! Lower taxes promotes government revenue! LDS teens are somewhat more chaste than their peers and it is certainly not from a lack of abstinence education at Church. Of course LDS teens are not randomly assigned to the Church, more’s the pity. In any case, I personally do not intend to encourage abstinence among my own children by dragging out a banana and a condom.

But a few caveats are in order. The main one is that, I bet, the study relied on teens to self-report their sexual activity. A sceptic could recast the results as “Study finds that teens who are taught that abstinence is a good thing are more likely to claim to be abstinent.”

Cross-posted at the Old Country.

Comments (23)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , ,
February 01st, 2010 16:29:19
23 comments

Vader
February 1, 2010

Well, there is the self-reporting thing.

I am personally very skeptical that a sex-ed class lasting a few hours can produce any significant changes in sexual behavior either way. Faithful LDS parents spend years at it, and while the results are impressive, they’re still not perfect.


Adam G.
February 1, 2010

Here’s an article from the Washington Post, courtesy of the T&S sidebar:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/01/AR2010020102628.html?hpid=topnews


Tim
February 2, 2010

Interesting study. Any idea of the size of these groups?
I’m curious why they focused on black teens for this, and if the results would be similar for other teens.


Dan
February 2, 2010

It should be noted also that abstinence in this study works because there is no morality grandstanding involved. The kids simply get to weigh the pros and cons of sexual activity at their age. Because there are far more cons, they deduce themselves the price is not worth it. Of course, this is far better than trying to scare kids into not having sex.


Sarah
February 2, 2010

I think it should be noted that these are middle school students who are abstaining and/or delaying their sexual activity. Keeping 12-year-olds from having sex hardly seems like a huge accomplishment.


reader Rachel
February 2, 2010

I wonder if there is any plan for the study to continue to follow these kids as they enter high school.


Adam G.
February 2, 2010

I think it should be noted that these are middle school students who are abstaining and/or delaying their sexual activity. Keeping 12-year-olds from having sex hardly seems like a huge accomplishment.

It sure beats the alternative.

—-

reader Rachel, me too.


Adam G.
February 2, 2010

Govt. officials point out that a single study, however well-designed, is probably not a good basis for social policy.

Maggie Gallagher retorts that, if so, we’re saying bye-bye to Head Start:

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NTI1NTBiZDFiNmFiMDhkOGE4MmY2NTYyZmMzNDczNDI=


Chino Blanco
February 2, 2010

Sorry, I understand that you don’t run this blog thing here for my own amusement, but seriously, what’s up with having to pop over here to leave comments? Does T&S have some unwritten policy that bars citing Maggie Srivastav in comments? Is that why we’re all here rather than there?


Jerry
February 2, 2010

Data from 2006 reported in the papers a couple of weeks ago showed an increase in abortions and teenage pregnancy and it coincided directly with an increase in abstinence only education from the Bush administration. So there may be less sex there is more negative side effects as well. I would take a reduction in abortion and teen parents over a reduction in sexual activity any day. Both would be best but that requires teaching abstinence and responsible sexual activity and that would require some compromise that the abstinence only folks are unwilling to do.


Adam G.
February 2, 2010

Jerry, that’s not what this study showed. It showed that teaching both led to worse outcomes.


Adam G.
February 2, 2010

CB,
I do it to annoy.


Tim
February 2, 2010

Adam, I think Jerry is saying that a decrease in sex does not necessarily mean a decrease in pregnancy, abortion, or STDs. The study would’ve been more informative–and better positioned to shape public policy–had it included information on pregnancy and STDs.


Jerry
February 2, 2010

Adam, at the bottom of the USA Today article on this study it clearly stated that Teen pregnancy and abortion has increased. That previously reported statistic tied the first increase in 15 years to the abortion rate to abstinence only education. It is obvious that teaching 12 yr olds to wait to have sex reduces the number of 12-13 yr olds having sex. What does it do for 17 and 18 yr olds? This study does not cover that but the increase in teen pregnancy and abortions for the latest year available 2006 should be an indication. I do not think that middle school should be the palace to teach contraceptives but any 17 year old senior in high school should have a full understanding of contraceptives and STDs. This study did not address that at all and does not validate abstinence only as a solution for all teen sexual issues. It suggests it helps early and pre-teens make better decisions. But sex education was introduced to reduce abortions and the spread of STDs which it has.


Adam G.
February 2, 2010

Tim,
the study reportedly found that abstinence only education did not lead to decreased use of contraception among those teens who did have sex.


Jerry
February 2, 2010

Adam, It all depends on what you consider bad outcomes. Is there any evidence of how it is playing in the most sexually active ages? Yes there is and the those outcomes are not as positive.


Sarah
February 2, 2010

@Adam
I just meant that most of them wouldn’t be having it anyway, so keeping them from doing something a lot of them wouldn’t be doing isn’t the same as keeping 16-year-olds, who are much more likely to have sex, from having it.


Rosalynde
February 3, 2010

I’d disagree with Dan above, that abstinence education works simply by providing information and allowing kids to weight pros and cons. Human sexual behavior is rarely governed by a rational process of deliberation—especially when we’re talking about middle schoolers. That’s why the “safe sex” model has failed so spectacularly among certain groups.

I think abstinence ed can work, as long as it occurs in a context where the right social/sexual incentives are in place for girls. That’s why it works for LDS. Maybe the program studied was able to change those incentives a bit for the kids in question.


djinn
February 3, 2010

Adam G, much of the sex education today counts as what you are calling “abstinence education.” The education actually teaches kids about the proper use of contraceptives–this is in no way “abstinence only education.” Just to be clear. It’s actual sex education including how to prevent pregnancy if you’re not abstinent. But, it says that abstinence is a very good idea. Good.

But don’t put this in the same box as “abstinence only” education, because it’s completely different.


Adam G.
February 4, 2010

Djinn, thanks for the clarification.


Adam G.
February 4, 2010

Federalism–the idea that those in power will voluntarily limit their power.

http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/the-abstinence-debate-cont/


Bart Mortensen
February 7, 2010

I find it very curious that Mr. G would quote the ONE study that he mentions here. However, there must be 50 studies out there who find just the opposite. Just goes to show that you can find some kind of study somewhere that supports your point of view.


Vader
February 7, 2010

Actually, Bart, it’s claimed that there have been eleven previous studies with the same conclusion:

This week, the media gave us what appeared to be startling news: Research, appearing in a journal published by the American Medical Association, showed (shock!) that abstinence programs dramatically reduced teen sexual activity.

No one knowledgeable about abstinence education, however, would find this startling. In fact, eleven previous sound studies showed strong positive effects from abstinence programs. The mainstream media simply ignored them. Unfortunately, the most recent story came too late — President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have already terminated the federal government’s abstinence programs.

Link

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