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.