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Abstinance Only Education Study

Postby Coppermine » Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:12 am

Well, in light of a little bit of boredom here, I thought I would stir the pot of controversy just a bit. I'm sure we're all capable of discussing this sort of thing in a mature fashion though, so here goes.

An independent study was ordered by the U.S. Congress to determine the effects of abstinence-only education and if the $87.5 million-a-year spent on it is doing any good. That's $1.5 billion spent on abstinence-only over the past decade.

I've long held that abstinence-only perhaps as the opposite effect on teens; that without knowledge of proper ways of protecting themselves, that it could actually lead to an increase in teen pregnancy. This of course was debunked not long ago with a study that indicated that not only is teen pregnancy at a 10-year low, but so is teenage drug use and violence.

I'm personally not a parent, but one of the most insteresting aspects of the following study concludes that abstinence-only education "...had no impact on the age of first sex. They had no impact on the number of partners. And they had no impact on reported rates of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease."

In short, it seems no matter what we teach our teenagers, they seem to make pretty good decisions on their own. Unless you consider having pre-marital sex, protected or not, a bad decision. Then, parents, you can go ahead an cringe as the study concluded that regardless of whether or not a student received abstinence-only education, the average age for losing their virginity is about 14.9.

I'm not sure how that age compares to average first-time sex from previous decades, although I'd be interested in seeing if there are any facts on that considering I'm sure many people will argue that "Back when I was kid, no one was having sex." I don't really buy that, but I don't have the facts on it either.

So, in any case, just for the sake of discussion and because sex is a fun thing to talk about, here is the article as found in the New York Times:

New York Times wrote:WASHINGTON, April 14 (AP) — Students who participated in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not, according to a study ordered by Congress.

Also, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes. And they first had sex about the same age as other students — 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

The federal government spends about $176 million a year promoting abstinence until marriage. Critics have repeatedly said they did not believe the programs worked.

Bush administration officials cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions from the study, saying the four programs were some of the very first established after Congress overhauled the nation’s welfare laws in 1996.

Officials said one lesson they learned from the study was that the abstinence message should be reinforced in subsequent years.

“This report confirms that these interventions are not like vaccines,” said Harry Wilson, associate commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the federal Administration for Children and Families. “You can’t expect one dose in middle school, or a small dose, to be protective all throughout the youth’s high school career.”


And a slightly more opinionated piece from USA Today:

Sharon Jayson wrote:Supporters of sex-education programs that focus on teaching teens to abstain from sex until marriage and critics who want programs to include contraception and condom use are headed for a showdown as Congress ponders renewing an $87.5-million-a-year abstinence-only program set to expire June 30.

The debate sharpened with a congressionally mandated, $7.7 million study released Friday that found abstinence-only programs don't stop — or even delay — teen sex. Over the past decade, the federal government has spent about $1.5 billion on such efforts.

"They had no impact on the age of first sex. They had no impact on the number of partners. And they had no impact on reported rates of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a statement following the release of the report by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. of Princeton, N.J., for the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.

"In short, American taxpayers appear to have paid over 1 billion federal dollars for programs that have no impact."

The study — the first long-term look at whether abstinence education affects behavior as well as attitudes — began tracking 2,057 youths in four communities around the country in late elementary and middle school and followed them for four to six years. The control group had one to three years of abstinence education.

"It's not a referendum on comprehensive sex education in comparison to abstinence, but it does suggest that we have some things to learn from the study," says Harry Wilson of the Health and Human Services Department.

The Title V block grant program, which expires in June, receives $50 million annually for abstinence programs and allows an additional $37.5 million to states for matching grants.

Supporters argue that the programs evaluated were first-generation approaches that didn't include ongoing abstinence messages now deemed necessary to delay teen sex.

The timing is an "attack on abstinence funding," says Kimberly Martinez of the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Critics say it's a signal that Congress should scrap abstinence-only programs in favor of comprehensive sex education.

"I suspect HHS was under considerable pressure by members of the Congress to get this one out there," says William Smith of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.
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Postby BritSox » Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:29 am

Abstinence-only is a crock. If a kid is raised religious, and believes premarital sex is wrong, being shown a condom won't make them lose faith. If a kid doesn't, and doesn't see why he shouldn't engage in underage sex, not showing him how to do it properly doesn't help either.

Britain has as bad a teen pregnancy rate as anywhere- it's worse than Europe because Europeans make sure to educate their kids about sex properly, and can talk openly about it. It's worse than America because we don't have such a large proportion of the population whose beliefs prevent them engaging in sex as unmarried teens. We have the Anglo-Saxon taboo on talking about the subject, but without the inhibitions on actually doing it.
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Postby knapplc » Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:55 am

Abstinence does not work. It's called hormones. ;-)
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Postby Art Vandelay » Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:26 am

Let the schools teach kids about the health and safety issues, STDs, prophylactics, etc., let parents help them to make the right "moral" choices.
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Postby ironman » Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:28 am

Art Vandelay wrote:Let the schools teach kids about the health and safety issues, STDs, prophylactics, etc., let parents help them to make the right "moral" choices.


Art pretty much summed up my sentiments on the issue, and much more concisely than I could have.
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Postby knapplc » Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:36 am

ironman wrote:
Art Vandelay wrote:Let the schools teach kids about the health and safety issues, STDs, prophylactics, etc., let parents help them to make the right "moral" choices.


Art pretty much summed up my sentiments on the issue, and much more concisely than I could have.


Yes, good post, Art. That's exactly what should be done. ;-D

Although I will add that teaching about health and safety issues, STDs, prophylactics, etc. is not SOLELY the responsibility of the school(s), but is the responsibility of the parent, too. The school should augment intsruction/education that the parent gives at home FIRST.

It is not the responsibility of the school to raise the child. The school is there to augment the raising of the child that the parent is already doing. Abdicating that responsibility to the school is a great way to have a poor relationship with your child. While the teacher(s) may have more technical knowledge, the onus is on the parent.

I think that goes for every facet of education, whether it be Sex Ed, Mathematics, Athletics - whatever. I am doing my darnedest to teach my child about these things right now (she's four), and I plan on continuing it right up until she goes to college. It’s my job to make her aware that she needs to learn and to build that solid base of desiring to learn starting at an early age. It’s my job to introduce her to as many parts of the world of knowledge as I can, and to build on and support what the teachers are doing at school.

I’ll do OK in pretty much everything but Math. I never got further than Geometry 2, if I recall correctly. I’m just not a Math person. History, English, Science, Social Studies – that I can do. But not Math. :-b :-B
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Postby Art Vandelay » Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:57 am

I agree completely, Knapp. I think parents should take an active role in teaching their children regardless of the topic, but I'd put the onus on the schools as I mentioned above because I doubt many parents are qualified to speak with any authority regarding the medical side of STDs. And unfortunately it's probably the same for the anatomical aspect of sex ed.
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Postby Coppermine » Mon Apr 16, 2007 12:00 pm

The problem is, sometimes the kids who need the most help at home aren't getting it at all. It shouldn't be the school's responsibility, but when it's a societal problem, and teenagers are having unprotected sex, people won't accept "but we told the parents to..."

It's also amazing how uninformed many parents are; or how many will not speak to their kids about safe sex out of fear that they'll see that as an open door to go do it.
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Postby ironman » Mon Apr 16, 2007 12:04 pm

Coppermine wrote:The problem is, sometimes the kids who need the most help at home aren't getting it at all. It shouldn't be the school's responsibility, but when it's a societal problem, and teenagers are having unprotected sex, people won't accept "but we told the parents to..."

It's also amazing how uninformed many parents are; or how many will not speak to their kids about safe sex out of fear that they'll see that as an open door to go do it.


I'd be interested to see what the pregnancy rates and such look like for kids that their parents talked to about sex as opposed to ones who did not. I would suspect the kids who's parents left it completely to the schools to handle probably had more issues.

There's got to be education and communication on both fronts.
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Postby knapplc » Mon Apr 16, 2007 12:15 pm

Art Vandelay wrote:I agree completely, Knapp. I think parents should take an active role in teaching their children regardless of the topic, but I'd put the onus on the schools as I mentioned above because I doubt many parents are qualified to speak with any authority regarding the medical side of STDs. And unfortunately it's probably the same for the anatomical aspect of sex ed.


Right. I'm certainly not going to claim that I know all there is to know about STDs, nor will almost any parent short of actual teachers/medical field people. The school plays a huge role in the education - giving proper facts, data, etc. The most I can do is talk to her about sex, how she should NEVER EVER EVER have sex, and that if she touches a boy her arms will fall off. :-D
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