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February 2nd, 2010
06:00 PM ET

What role should abstinence-only sex ed play?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Abstinence-only education might just work.

A landmark, federally-funded study shows the first clear evidence that these programs can persuade teens to put off having sex.

An information table is shown at a rally outside the CDC-sponsored National STD Prevention Conference.
An information table is shown at a rally outside the CDC-sponsored National STD Prevention Conference.

This could have huge implications on the national debate over lowering teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

The study - which appears in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine - shows 33 percent of sixth and seventh graders who took an abstinence-only program started having sex within two years.... that's compared to 52 percent who were taught only about safe sex... and - 42 percent who learned about both safe sex and abstinence.

The Obama administration had cut out more than $170 million in annual federal funding for abstinence programs... and instead put more than $100 million toward other types of sex ed programs.

But based on these new findings - officials suggest similar abstinence programs could be eligible for government dollars.

Some call this abstinence research "game- changing"... that it comes after years of getting a bad rap.

But critics say the curriculum in this study isn't a good example of abstinence-only programs. They say the class studied didn't take a moral tone. It encouraged teens to wait to have sex until they're ready - not until they're married; and it didn't disapprove of condom use.

One researcher says the take-away is the best solution to fight this problem is to use a wide range of programs.

The results of this study come just a week after another report showing that after a decade of declining teen pregnancies... the rate is going up again among all racial and ethnic groups.

Here’s my question to you: What role should abstinence-only sex education play in preventing teen pregnancy?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Monica from Seattle writes:
Out of that 33% who started having sex after abstinence-only sex education, how many became pregnant or contracted an STD because they didn't learn how to protect themselves? Abstinence may be the only 100 percent effective way to prevent pregnancy or disease, but teenagers are still going to have sex. Shouldn't they have all the information available to them?

Ted writes:
As an educator, I have seen first-hand that abstinence-only education works. Most of the claims made of abstinence-centered programs are way "off base". If anything, they seem to be more comprehensive. They invite young people to look at the "bigger picture." The physical, emotional, financial and spiritual consequences of teenage sex must be discussed. Abstinence educators have the courage to explore these realities with the young people they encounter.

Meg writes:
I don't think abstinence-only programs as the only choice will work. I definitely think it should be taught as one of the choices. When so many young people don't classify oral sex as sex, there is a problem. It's not only teen pregnancies that are a concern, but STDs as well.

J.J. from Washington writes:
It does not work. There should be a variety of birth control methods taught to these teens. Teens are going to have sex whether parents like it or not. It's better to eliminate the stigma of teen sex than to have teens who feel like they can’t seek out some form of birth control because their parents are going to find out. Teens need to be educated on all of their options, not just preached at to say "no."

Bob writes:
The fact that teen pregnancies are rising for the first time in ten years tells me that what we have been doing for those ten years has been working pretty well. Wish all government programs did that well.

E. from Chicago writes:
Unless we've found a way to rein in teenage curiosity, there better be a combination of the two programs. Both abstinence and sex ed should be taught. By the way, this study wasn't a game-changer; AIDS was the game-changer.


Filed under: Education
soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. Stan in Boston

    No role. Education is not about hiding knowledge. If relevant knowledge on the subject is not taught then it is propaganda, not education. I would also take a look at that study. How did they define sex? Was it limited to intercourse? Studies I have seen in the past found that teens who were abstaining from intercourse were far more likely to engage in oral and anal sex. They won't get pregnant , but they will contact and spread sexually transmitted diseases, especially if relevant knowledge is hidden from them.

    February 2, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  2. beth

    Why teach them anything They will figure it out. Thousands of years men and women figured it out before there was sex- ed I think our society is fixated on how to with these kids. Teach them the game of sex, but tell them now go use safe sex or don't have sex. Kids need a little at a time for information. Not bombarded at a very early age. Studies should find out if more teen pregnancy's and sexual activity is on the rise because of sex- ed

    February 2, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  3. J.R. Register

    Based solely on the percentages of the study group I would say that safe sex education should still be taught along side of abstinence-only sex education. But, more emphasis should be placed on abstinence-only in the lesson plan. The studies outcome is still surprising to me though. I would be interested in knowing what the lesson plan outlined for each as well where the study participants are coming from. The environment outside of the classroom effects the participants also.

    J.R. Register, Los Angeles, California

    February 2, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  4. Bashful

    When are people going to start teaching their own children about topics such as sex vs. abstinence and stop waiting for the government to do the dirty work for them. The government has bigger tasks at hand, that it should focus on, like employment, the economy, healthcare and terrorism. Please.

    February 2, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  5. KYLib

    Missing part of the picture here, the study was done only on African American youth that were drawn from a very low income area. It demonstrates very little in that light regarding the efficacy of abstinence only programs.

    February 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  6. JJ

    Did the research report on what percent of each group of students became pregnant or diseased within three years of becoming sexually active, or just on what percent became sexually active? An abstinence only student may wait a year or two more to become sexually active, but still get pregnant or catch a disease sooner than their better educated classmates, who knew what to do to protect themselves from day one.

    February 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  7. J.R. Register

    Based solely on the percentages of the study group I would say that safe sex education should still be taught along side of abstinence-only sex education. But, more emphasis should be placed on abstinence-only in the lesson plan. The studies outcome is still surprising to me though. I would be interested in knowing what the lesson plan outlined for each was as well where the study participants are coming from. The environment outside of the classroom effects the participants also.

    J.R. Register, Los Angeles, California

    February 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  8. Steven

    Jack, this might result in less teens having sex, but it results in many, many more teenage pregnancies. And that's what it's designed to curb, isn't it? Not sex, but the consequences thereof. If your question is "What role should abstinence-only sex education play in preventing teen pregancy?" the answer must be none. It results in less sex, but way more teen pregancies. This is a total and demonstrable failure.

    Steven
    Fayetteville, AR

    February 2, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  9. Ally

    None. Sex ed should begin with abstinence: "Wait until you are really ready, do not give in to peer pressure..." but include "if you decide to have sex, here is how to properly use a condom, antibiotics interfere with birth control, you can get pregnant the first time..."
    Maybe under abstinence only, less kids have sex, but I would bet that those who do are less likely to have safe sex than those who have had comprehensive sex ed.
    Ally, San Francisco

    February 2, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  10. Justin

    My main comment is that this study is incomplete. It comments on teen sex rates, but ignores teen pregnancy rates (what really needs to be reduced) or STD transmission rates (which is also very important). Once those statistics are compiled the picture may be different. Further, while it is interesting to study near term effects, longer term effects also need to be considered.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  11. ALI

    I believe that abstinance only programs are not working. I went to a high school with that approach and graduated with four pregnant girls. Teenagers are going to choose to have sex and it is important that they know how to be safe when they do. Young people are going to learn about sex one way or another, and I believe that it is best to teach them real facts and strategies to make the right choices when the time comes. There are so many false perceptions amongst teenagers regarding sex because they have never been give the actual facts. In an ideal world abstinence only programs would work, but we do not live in an ideal world.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
  12. Cathy, San Diego

    As a mother of a girl, and a young girl once myself–my friends who were taught sex ed (ALL of sex ed) tended to have more responsible outlooks on sex; those that were simply told "no" tended to rebel and have sex earlier. This is my observation.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
  13. Frank Brindel

    I am a non-believer......kids will do it cause it feels good. God saw to it.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
  14. Azure

    This is a compelling study, but just because students are waiting longer to have sex doesn’t mean they’re safer about it. The real evidence of effectiveness would be to know the rates of pregnancy among these groups. Does it really matter if a student waits a year longer to become sexual active if they are just going to get pregnant right away due to a lack of education?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
  15. Bad Dog

    Abstinence is a joke. Were the geniuses who came up with this plan actually ever teenagers? Teens start having sex as soon as they hit puberty these days. And it's not reluctant. It's exuberant. Kids launch themselves into sex with gusto. So it's not like they are wavering – should I, umm, I dunno – they are way beyond that. The bus has left the stop on that one. Any efforts should be directed at ensuring the lowest possible pregnancy rate.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
  16. Chris Cruz

    Jack,
    It's a tool that can be used from the sex ed tool box. Some kids will adhere to it, most will not.

    The challange to to get those adults that are in denial that their kids are going to experiment in sex on board with contraception.

    Of course, there will always be those folks who will use religion or other reasons to let their kids be exposed to pregnacy and disease.

    Chris
    Benson, AZ

    February 2, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
  17. Andrew, Washington DC

    I truly believe in a safest-safer-unsafe approach. I was taught that abstinence was the safest choice, but if I was going to be sexually active that there were choices to make to protect myself and others. Whether being abstinent or using safer-sex methods, all of these choices are better at preventing pregnancy and diseases than being ignorant and having careless, unprotected sex.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  18. Guy from Hawaii

    Abstinence works...100% of the time. You'll be lucky to get 1% of the sexually active or soon to be sexually active to buy into that! If the anti-abortionists put 1/2 the energy they use in protesting abortion (or killing doctors who perform abortions) into educating people on birth-control then lives that would be aborted would not even be conceived. Now that's a solution that's likely to move statistics in a direction that will be more tolerable to all who debate this subject endlessly. Lets be realistic too "Just say No" has done nothing to curb drug use!

    February 2, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  19. Greg, Portland OR

    Oh, that worked real well for Bristol Palin, unwed mother abandoned by the father who is behind on child-support payments.

    Abstinence, by itself, is ignorance. People need to be educated about all aspects of pregnancy, including prevention & termination (along with the cost, availability, effectiveness, and risks of male and female contraception choices), parental responsibility (short-term, long-term, and financial costs), and the burden on society (welfare, medical).

    Neither political party offers a comprehensive solution to unwanted pregnancy, and both parties use this a tool to curry political favor with the masses.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  20. Michael

    Abstinence–only may prevent pregnancy or just postpone it! But sexual education is needed to prevent the spread of disease and promote health. Well intended abstinence programs might only prevent pregnancy at the risk of increasing the spread of infectious disease such as HIV, HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases. With limited resources we need to fund programs that can maximize impact.

    Dr. M

    February 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm |
  21. Em

    There are many paths to teach... abstinence needs to be taught as "ok" but not the end all to themself if they don't go that path... teaching them to learn of themselves first so they can know if they are ready is fundamental to all.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  22. Norbeta Pfizer

    What about catching AIDS when you are already married? That happened to a woman I know!

    February 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  23. mary

    abstinence-only sex education would not work. Our children are growing up at the higher pace than we did. No matter how much we teach them they still think it wont happen to them.

    I suggest we have condoms and birth control available to junior high and high school kids in the nurses office.

    The sex education should start at home. Parents should be more responsible and if the daughter comes home pregnant it should be parents responsibility to help raise the baby and not go on state aid.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  24. Steve

    I agree that Abstinence has a role to play in sex education...but doesnt this follow a report from CNN the other day with facts showing that teen pregnancy is on the rise (for the first time in 5 years) and that abstinence only programs are showing that they dont work as the only form of sex ed?

    Its really confusing when you file reports that are completely opposite to one another.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  25. GC1CEO

    I believe a wide range of programs is effective, what needs to left out is the religious and morality tone of the 19th century. One should address both the physical and emotional conquesences of sex including problems with peer pressure and to develop a healthy self-respect. Ones readiness can't be determined by morality, program or law and we should focus on giving teens the tools to determine when they are ready and if they decide to engage in sexual activity what they can do to make it safer for themselves and others.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  26. Kristin

    Sexual education should not only reinforce protective measures, but overly emphasize them! I am not sure where you get your figures from, but I would rather see the rate of infectious diseases being spread rather than a survey which asks a kid if they're out having sex! There is no accurate way to measure responses. I know I wasn't asked lol.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  27. Daniel

    That's all fine and well but look deeper. Out of the 33% of sixth graders taught abstinence only, how many ended up pregnant or with a venereal disease vs. the 52% who were taught safe sex?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  28. John

    This doesn't really sound like abstinence-only sex ed to me, which is probably a clue as to why it's more effective.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  29. D

    Though I chose to abstain from sex until age 27, I am strongly opposed to abstinence-only sex education. It is precisely because I received information on having sex safely and responsibly that I waited until I was an adult. For me personally, an objective understanding of the implications of sex were what kept me from jumping into bed at an extremely young age.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  30. Barbie from Hollywood, CA

    Abstinence should NEVER be the only choice taught. For some, it works... but for most of us, it was simply a "religious mantra" meant to keep us from doing what we saw everyone else doing... So all the other options should be laid out in plain terms, as well AND EARLY – birth control, condoms, and the right to abortion. If I had children who were teenagers or about to become teenagers now, my girls would be on birth control, the boys would never leave home without condoms, and I'd be talking to my boys' girlfriends' mothers about what THEY'RE telling their girls!

    February 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  31. Jack

    I myself am 15 years old and have read and educated myself on both sides of the argument. Abstinence is a fantastic thing to teach, and truely is the only birth control that is 100% effective. However, most abstinence programs try to act as if teenagers are able to totally own and control their libido. For the most part, they are correct, but people can behave rashly when base instincts like sex are introduced, and teens need to know other ways to be safe.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  32. Steve

    So how does the report at the end show that it doesnt work, and the story is about how a completely different study shows the opposite...surprise, surprise! No one has any idea what they are talking about I guess.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  33. Dustin from Marysville, CA

    I have a question of my own actually. Why not present both sex education methods to students? The reality seems to be that neither method works effectively alone. You can promote the idea of abstinence from a moral standpoint, but the reality is that some teenagers will still have sex. Why not cover both bases and get the best results overall?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  34. Lynne in CA

    Abstinence only classes should be introduced at puberty, roughly sixth or seventh grade. In high school we need continued health education classes to combat STD's, teen pregnancy, obesity, etc. Empower the children with knowledge, teach them the consequences of their actions and guide them to make the proper choices for themselves.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  35. Nancy

    I think putting off sex until you're ready is always a good message. You can't undo "doing it," but waiting gives you more control over things like unwanted pregnancy, emotional trauma, ect. However, it's the abstinence ONLY message that bothers me. The fact of the matter is that about half the kids who got the abstinence only message went ahead and had sex anyway. That's not a great rate of return right there-so when HALF the kids go ahead and do it anyway, are they also informed about condoms, birth control, where to get it if they don't want to tell their parents, what their rights are reproductively in a particular state? Do they need mom and dad to get BC or can they get it on their own? What happens if they get pregnant, what are the laws concerning paternity? Maybe if the whole process is shown and a fat dose of Maury Pauvich when the girl doesn't know who the father is is enough to encourage kids to engage in either no sex or safer sex. Minneapolis

    February 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  36. Candice

    Something to put out there...I have heard it thru the teenager grapevine that many teenagers do not consider oral sex as sex these days. Perhaps the decrease in teen pregnancy is due to an increase in other forms of sexuality. Also, the surveys out there are specifically asking if the teens participated in sexual intercourse. If they are having oral sex and not penetrative sex, perhaps the numbers are a bit skewed based on the specific question asked. I don't know the answer, but I do find it hard to believe that there is a decrease in overall teenage sexual activity.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  37. Daniel P from Long Island

    Will an abstinence-only policy include gay teens ? Since gay teens can legally marry in some states, but not others, what will be taught about what age it's appropriate for gay teens to be sexually active ?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  38. Loren, Castro Valley CA

    "Just say no" has been tried for everything from drugs to alcohol to sex for the last thirty years. It hasn't really worked – we still have at least as many people doing all of the above in unwise ways. If you assume that kids are sooner or later going to try one or all of the above, make sure that they have the information necessary – *especially* about sex and reproduction – to make sure that their choices are informed ones.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  39. Mike

    Of course there are very good reasons for pushing abstinence as the one way to avoid pregnancy and it should be a part of all sex-ed programs. The problem is, that more than half of kids will still have sex in the near future and they need to know how to protect themselves. We saw publicly that even those politicians who push abstinence only had unplanned teen pregnancies in their own family. Abstincence only doesn't go far enough, but it should be a part of all comprehensive programs.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  40. Tom S.

    I think a more important question is what percentage of those who did take abstinence-only sex education AND had sex, had unsafe sex compared to those who had sex after taking a safe sex course?

    What is the goal here, to prevent young adults from having sex (fat chance) or to protect them when they do...?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  41. Adam Robinette

    The worst thing we can do for our kids is to sweep human nature under the rug. It's a pleasant fiction to believe that all teens will just not have sex if educated to avoid it "becasue it's bad". In reality, only a small percentage will, while the rest will end up going at it, trial and error on their own, to see what all the fuss is about. That's why kids get into drinking, drugs, and smoking. They're told it's bad, but in an authoritative way, almost as if the parents never experimented themselves. Kids hate hypocrisy, and are smarter than we give them credit for.

    If we would just talk openly about sex, and not the avoidance of it, it's possible that it will seem less cool to young teens who hate authority. (It worked for weed in Amsterdam) However, for those who do try, they'll at least have an education on how to do things safely..

    February 2, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  42. Jeanine

    While it is not surprising that students taught abstinence-only sex ed statistically wait longer to have sex, I'm curious to see of the 33% of students who had sex within two years, how many ended up in pregnancies and infections compared to those students who were taught comprehensive sex-ed. That's the whole point, is it not?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  43. Nefertiti

    "It encouraged teens to wait to have sex until they're ready – not until they're married; and it didn't disapprove of condom use."

    Not exactly "abstinence-only," if it encourages condom use, is it?

    I basically had abstinence-only sex education – not in school, but from my parents. My first child is a direct result. Yes, I was 21 before I had sex, but it'd been so strongly ingrained in me that it was wrong, that I refused to use birth control because I thought that would make it easier for me to "give in" to sex. Two months after losing my virginity, I found myself pregnant, and within a couple more months, reluctantly married my child's father, whom I never would have married, otherwise.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  44. ben stockton, calif

    as nancy ragean suggested [ just say no] doesnt cut it. if parental guidance doesnt work then school have to be the parents.a lot of poorly educated teens need to get more attention especially when the hormones are raging. way too many teens getting pregnant and eventually they end up on welfare and in some respects the politician that said dont feed stray dogs because they breed may also apply to some families sad to say

    February 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  45. Jack - Lancaster, Ohio

    Jack:

    The American taxpayer is always forced to go back to the people who breake things, banking, war intelligence, homeland security et. al.. If there has been a reduction in pregnancies maybe birth control is winning out over copulation control and stay with the program that is working, morals or not. But NOooo they want to "fix" the success. It is another education program that as the education secretary eluded to would be better off by a direct hurricane hit. There is no "role" for abstinence-only in a world of bad examples, like...Laterno !

    February 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  46. Chuck

    But from a public policy standpoint, isn't the important question not whether the teens have had sex, but whether they have gotten pregnant and/or contracted STDs?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  47. Steve Canada

    The role it should play is as an option in preventing teen pregnancy. It is the only guaranteed method out there, and thats how it should be presented . All options should be taught to all involved.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  48. William

    So, according to this, about 42% of all 8th and 9th graders are having sex?

    At that age I was still awkward and had no clue how to talk to girls. Maybe we should make all George Clooney and Brad Pitt movies unavailable to kids so they won't learn how to be smooth... haha.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  49. lydia

    Hey Jack,

    I believe socio-economic conditions, confidence and self respect have a huge impact on who gets pregnant and who does not. The stats you cited don't provide enough information.

    We need to arm our kids with the self confidence to abstain without feeling like a freak, and information to prevent pregnancy when they decide to take the plunge. It's not an either/or arguement. They need both, and boys need way more information about the legalities of paternity.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  50. Reatha Wilkins, South Carolina

    I think that sex ed should be treated like any other subject. Provide all the information possible. Create students who are capable of making informed and responsible decisions based on a body of knowledge.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  51. Zack

    While "abstinance only" should certainly be presented to kids as part of a more inclusive sex-education curriculum, I think it is essential that safe sex also be included. Where these programs really fail is in realizing that different individuals will, either by nature or nurture, be pre-programmed for different levels of sexual activity. If a young person has matured physically and mentally faster than his or her peers and feels ready to engage in sexual activity, preaching to them that abstinance is their only "correct" option will only server to alienate and confuse them. We can save future generations untold amounts of money and therapy hours by simply admitting that sexuality is a natural and wholesome component of the human body and psyche, despite what the sexually repressed and fearful far-right would like us to believe.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  52. Darin

    A ridiculously important point that was totally omitted from this article is that the study was based on a *religion-free* abstinence sex ed program.

    The point being that taking religion out of the equation made the program actually work. As opposed to studies showing that traditional abstinence programs had little effect and could sometimes even lead to reduced condom use.

    Way to omit the entire point of the study.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  53. DaveN

    Knowledge is power. In my opinion, there's no age-appropriate material that kids should not be exposed to. Teaching abstinence is great when it works, but if we don't also teach safe sex and contraception, we're dooming those who reject the abstinence message to teen pregnance and STDs.

    It's unconscionable to withhold potentially life-saving information from children and young adults based on some sense of morality or propriety, and it's hypocritical to deny kids contraceptive education and then try to prevent them from having abortions when their ignorance results in fully expected and foreseeable pregnancies.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
  54. Concerned Citizen

    What's the goal here? To prevent kids from having sex, or to prevent them from having UNPROTECTED SEX.

    This study is ridiculous and irrelevant. Are you telling me there is more concern for a 12 year old having safe sex with another 12 year old because they're too young....than for 15 year olds having unprotected sex and putting themselves at risk for pregnancy, STIs, and HIV?

    Abstinence only education may delay kids from doing it, but they WILL do it eventually. Humans are biologically wired to want sex during/after puberty. Maybe some will have sex when they're 12, others will 'wait' until they're 20. But when they decide it's their time it will be OUR responsibility to make sure they're prepared. Imagine if they weren't! Increased rates of STIs, HIV, pregnancy, and abortion...

    ABSTINENCE ONLY EDUCATION NEVER HAS AND NEVER WILL WORK.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  55. Mabel Schweers

    Have separate school for boys and girls through elementary and high school and emphasize chastity as a nobel idea.
    Mabel

    February 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  56. Nicole

    I can support abstinence-only sex education as long as it is done from a truthful and non-religious point of view. I like the idea of promoting "waiting until you are ready" over "waiting until you are married." And I like combining it with truthful education about safe-sex.

    Sadly, it seems that many parents don't discuss this with their children and leave it to the schools. Only to criticize what the schools teach. Teenagers need to hear about this subject from their parents, as well as their teachers.

    I graduated high school nine years ago. My school had no sex-ed beyond learning about puberty. And most of my friends' parents only told their children the equivalent of "do it and I'll kill you." I knew of one girl who had unprotected sex because she was more afraid of her mom finding birth control pills or condoms in her room than of getting pregnant. If the adults in charge of teaching would take a more responsible approach, then maybe we can cut the teen pregnancy rate.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  57. Steven Hertz

    Abstinence-only sex education should still have a small role in sex education in order to prevent unwanted teen pregnancies. Small is the keyword here. Obviously it is an important message, but if Americans think that they can simply ignore the fact that pubescent teens are going to experiment with their new sexuality they are not only completely ignorant, but also incredibly naieve. The Catholic Church has continually pressed our governement to fund abstinence only sex education because "Thats what the Bible says". Clearly this approach is failing our youth miserably and its time we start taking this issue seriously. Teach them how to be safe so that they don't ever need to decide what to do with an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.

    Steve H.
    Kalamazoo, MI

    February 2, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  58. James Robinson

    Jack,

    These numbers tell us nothing about the different courses' affects on teen pregnancy. They only record the percentages of teens engaging in sexual activity. Chances are, if kids are using condoms or the pill, they're probably not as likely to cause pregnancies as kids who aren't taught these methods.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  59. Christopher Bingham

    "Abstinence only" sex education is simply religious moralizing disguised as some version of "protecting children." It's part of the broader conservative agenda to criminalize sex and continue to build a culture of shame around sexuality.

    A course that encourages condom use, and teaches about birth control is NOT abstinence only. It sounds like the conservative religious businesses are trying to get their nose in the tent.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  60. Karl from SF, CA

    It should be part of the entire package. Teach abstinence but also what they need to know if they choose otherwise. When a teen has a loaded gun, they better know more about gun safety then just don’t pull the trigger.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  61. zachary

    54% of teens practicing safe sex, compared to 33% of teens practicing unsafe sex...Which would you prefer?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  62. Ronnie

    I would love to see more about where the data came from. As a middle school teacher, I may be wrong, but typically parts of the country that teach abstinence only traditionally have stronger parent influence at home.

    This is a clear case where correlation might not prove causation.

    Math Teacher in Austin, TX

    February 2, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  63. Ross

    I'm in my early 20s, seeing the havoc this program promotes clearly indicates there is a problem. When teenage pregnancies continue to rise (and the teens a seldom fit for adulthood let alone parenthood) and STIs are becoming rampant in society one must look at why. Of dozens of friends, only one haas been able to abstain (so far) until marriage. Most have made these 'pledges' only to have pregnancy scares (or worse, actual unplanned pregnancies when they are not emotionally or financially independent from their parents) or infections because of they JUST DON'T KNOW BETTER...and why is that? Because "Abstinence only programs' is NOT SEX ED, in fact education is completely absent from these programs.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  64. Jacinta

    Ban the porn industry. This will greatly lessen the exposure of sex aimed at young people, and they will eventually realize that love isn't all about sex. Bring porn down, end of story.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  65. JimF

    The whole idea of abstinence only is that there is no sex. It intentionally withholds information about sex and what alternatives people who engage in sex can have. The misguided premise is that what you don't know can't hurt you. So it shouldn't be called sex education, it should be called abstinence education.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  66. dxp2718

    Wait...1/3 of kids having sex before the start of high school??? Doesn't that seem rather...wrong, no matter the sex ed program they were in? I remember not even *considering* sex until late in high school, and even then, nobody I knew was doing it (so I didn't either). Where do high school kids have sex anyway? Where are they left unsupervised in a suitably private location long enough? It seems to me that to solve this growing problem we need to look at why (and how) the kids are having sex so early to begin with. Is it television? Video games? Distracted guardians?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  67. Nate

    Abstinence is perhaps the first advice we could give to teens about sex, but it's a complex issue and we would be crazy to let that be the only adivce we give.

    It's less a matter of when a person starts having sex than how informed they are about which risks are going to mess up their lives forever.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  68. BKing

    On one hand, I like the fact that some of these abstinence only programs shy away from preaching morality to kids. I also like the fact that condom use is not completely avoided. That being said, I still don't agree with the abstinence only method. I have no problem with kids being taught a message of abstinence, but that needs to be balanced with a healthy dose of comprehensive sex education. For every teen who chooses to wait to have sex, there will be another who chooses to go ahead and take that step. If that happens, then they need to have all the information at hand so that the results aren't a complete disaster.

    I'm not promoting teen sex, but I am being realistic about the situation.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  69. ER in Chicago

    Unless we've found a way to reign in teenaged curiosity, there better be a combination of the two programs. Both abstinence and sex ed should be taught. By the way, this study wasn't a game-changer... AIDS was the game-changer.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  70. Patrick in Madison

    what comes right after the order to be abstinent? that you better accept Jesus as your personal savior. Abstinence-only and Christianist teaching are are hairs-breadth apart

    February 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  71. Ted

    As an educator I have seen first-hand that absitnence-only education works. Most of the claims made of abstinence centered programs are way "off base". If anything they seem to be more comprehensive. They invite young people to look at the "bigger picture". The physical, emotional, financial and spiritual consequences of teenage sex must be discussed. Abstinence educators have the courage to explore these realities with the young people they encounter.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  72. meg

    I don't think abstinence only programs as the only choice will work. I definitely think it should be taught as one of the choices. When so many young people don't classify oral sex as sex there is a problem. It's not only teen pregnancies that are a concern. Let's remember that drn ol' STD. Too many times in our culture when a young girl gets pregnant she gets much attention–too many times positive. Many young girls keep their babies when adoption would be a better choice.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  73. Chris V.

    The study measures success in terms of when the test subjects *reported* beginning sexual activity. This is flawed for two reasons: First, those who are taught abstinence-only are more likely to associate a perceived stigma with having sex, due in part to the implied admission that they did not learn from the course or live up to expectations. Secondly, if comprehensive sex education doesn't quite achieve the same success in reduction of sexual activity, but has substantially greater success in preventing STDs and teen pregnancies, then that ought to be the metric by which success is judged

    February 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  74. JJ

    It does not work. There should be a variety of birth control methods taught to these teens. Teens are going to have sex whether parents like it or not, and it's better to eliminate the stigma of teen sex than to have teens who feel like they cannot seek out some form of birth control because their parents are going to find out. Teens need to be educated on all of their options, not just preached at to say "no". Not to mention, what is the best way rebel? Go against what you are being spoon fed.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  75. Ian from MN

    There is nothing wrong with teaching abstinence, and if some of the things in this program work well do them, but the key here is that no matter what you do a decently large number of America's teens are going to have sex. There is no stopping it. As a result you must teach alternative safe methods.

    We need to get away from the stupid mindset of telling our kids not to get in danger and expecting them to just listen, rather than teaching them how to deal with the dangers that they will inevitably encounter.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  76. David A Whitaker

    Jack it amazing how adults forget how teenagers think, just telling someone to not to do something. It justlike telling them oh give it a try, I think we should use all mean necessary to teenagers to use safe sex. It should be in the classroom as well as in the homes. All parents aren't telling their about sex eduaction and they need to be told.

    David
    Martinsburg,WV

    February 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  77. Jonathen Keepers

    Abstinence-only is a waste of time and money.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  78. Peter

    Porn allows for a healthy outlet of some of that Sexual energy. Did banning Booze help anything? Has banning pot helped anything?
    If you ban porn you give more to the imagination and then more frustration and acting on it

    February 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  79. Amy

    While the statistics you report are interesting, the mere finding that students delay having sex a little bit longer represents neither a thorough nor well-rounded investigation into the benefits/drawbacks of abstinence-only education.

    More pressing and significant sex-ed issues than the flimsy temporal include the rate of STD transmission and related health problems, along with the teen pregnancy rate and healthy attitudes toward sex. None of these matters can be seriously interpreted in isolation from the others.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  80. Karl

    Listen, abstinence-only sex ed play should not even be considered.
    A normal unbiased sex edcuation that explains about how (not) to get STD's, how pregnancys work and how kids can protect themselves are the right choice!

    It is not up to the school or anyone else except the individual student to decide if and when the person is ready to have sex.

    The person then know about the risks and can decide for themselves and have the necessary knowledge to protect themselves.

    Karl, Sweden

    February 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  81. Michael

    What role should abstinence-only sex ed play? It should play no role because it is the wrong question. Instead ask "What role should education on abstinence play in sex ed?" and the answer would be very different.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  82. DJ

    Abstinence only worked great for Bristol Palin.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  83. Reynard

    These programs are a good thing, but they are a waste of money when not viewed in the context of our society. We live in a sex filled, sex driven society and unless we address this any sex education is contradicted each time a kids tunes in to modern media.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  84. Joe - Pennsylvania

    33% of 6th and 7th graders started having sex within 2 years and this is considered a success for abstinence only programs. What a joke. It is only a 20% decline from safe sex education programs and at least those kids learned about safe sex. If anything it proves that more than just abstinence education is necessary to attempt to protect kids from themselves.
    The bottom line is that regardless of your moral stance, a not insignificant percentage of minors are going to have sex. It is better that they learn how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and STD's than to brave the sexual waters on their own, with only the advice of their peers to guide them.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  85. jon

    Abstinence should be taught, but only as an alternative to other birth control methodology. Restricting the flow of information has never educated anyone.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  86. John Dorian

    Abstinence-only education in a horribly unhealthy approach to developing human sexuality. Just because a program is effective in scaring kids into abstaining from sex, by the time they make the decision to actually do it, they are uniformed about the proper measures to take for safe sex to occur. There is nothing wrong with telling kids to wait until they are ready; however, natural human development does not need to be stifled, but guided.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  87. Gerald Specter

    There is nothing really surprising about the finding that an abstinence program with certain features can have some positive effect. One of the keys here may be a principle that 12 step addiction programs have understood for decades. The morals based programs tell students that the must avoid sex until a vague date in the future; to a fifteen year old that sounds like forever. The programs that can help effectively set no absolute time for becoming active, giving the students a sense of conrol and enabling them to say, "I will have sex, just not today" a tolerable prospect.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  88. Minesh -Troy, MI

    Sex should be discussed at home by families and public school does not need to get involved in it. Also more movies and TV shows should be rated R as they promote promiscuity and sex at young age.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  89. David in GA

    Equal time with birth control and family planning,

    February 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  90. Zac

    Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We have tried this before.

    Sorry but children don't decide to have sex or not through any type of classroom activity. It's the parents responsibility, not the government or the school districts.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  91. Jim in WV

    Jack, it seems no one is asking the most important question: When all of these kids start having sex, which are doing so safely? We really need to worry about the sexually active 33% of kids trained only in abstinence.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  92. Jerry Krumenacker

    Re;

    Teen sex study

    Maybe "Just Say No" campaign under Reagan made sense after all.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  93. Myrna

    I wonder how much this impacted "Pregnancy" as opposed to "abstinance". While only 33% may have started having sex in the abstinance only program, how many of those 33% had unprotected sex, compared to the 42% of those in a mixed program. How many had pregnancies? More importantly, how many of those 67% remaining had sex and lied, because they were taught about abstinance and felt shame that they didn't stick with their plan.

    I hesitate to plan abstinance only classes based on self reporting. There are two numbers we should be concerned with here, how many became pregnant, and how many got STDs.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  94. D.Hudson

    I think all teenage girls should be encouraged to get free depo-provera (long acting birth control) shots. They could even be paid a stipend to encourage this. It won't prevent STD's but would prevent teen pregnancies.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  95. John Vancouver Island Canada

    Perhaps as a lead in to Chastity belt maintenance . Followed by Lock picking 101.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  96. Jon

    It sounds to me like the program in this study is a good compromise between abstinence-only and other sex education programs. I believe that sex should wait until marriage, but I recognize that many do not and I don't think educators should be naive to that. If, by starting a practical dialogue with teens instead of preaching to them or throwing condoms at them, we can encourage them to wait "until they are ready," then there is a better opportunity for teens to make their own decision to wait on sex, with the help of parents and religious institutions.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  97. Colleen

    Abstinence is the only proven safe guard against pregnancy. So what's the question...dahhh? Sometimes I think educators don't have any common sense.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  98. Katherine

    This is what my husband and I have always planned on teaching our girls. Sex brings very powerful emotions and some teens are too young to deal with that. We want to teach our girls that you are worth holding out until YOUR ready, not just the boy who WANTS you to be ready. It’s about teaching our young people to cherish themselves, not prove something to someone else by giving their bodies. What is so darn religious about that?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  99. Hollis Pickett, Redding CA

    All viable options that teach responsibility, safety, disease prevention and that reduce unwanted pregnancies should be on the table and open for discussion. Abstinence should be taught as one element of human sexuality, but not as the only alternative.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  100. Mark

    Both abstinence and safe-sex practices need to be taught. While this study shows shows a smaller percentage of students with abstinence only education engaging in sexual activity after two years, it doesn't reveal what percentage of those students that were engaging in sexual activity were doing so with condoms and other safe sex practices. No program will ever get the rate of pre-marital sex down to zero, so teaching safe sex, especially proper condom use, is essential to help reduce the spread of venereal disease and unwanted pregnancies.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  101. Fred

    Jack,

    No matter what program is utilized in Sex Ed, without parents; support it is all for naught.

    What happened to the practise that teens would have a "robotic babt they would take home from school (males and females) which they had to take care of during different time of day and Night.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  102. Londyn

    I think that abstinence only is the correct approach. As a 15 year old girl, I have had sex ed in health. We were taught about both safe sex and abstinence. We were also taught about birth control. Of course I have heard about teenage sexual intercourse in my school. There are always going to be teenagers that have sex, even when knowing the risks. Part of it comes from parenting, and the other part does come from health class. I do not think that they should just teach about abstinence because the kids that become sexually active are not going to anything about any form of contraception. -Londyn, Luverne, Minnesota

    February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  103. Bill

    Hey Jack: I hope the religious fanatics don't get too excited over this report. I suspect it should be noted as "abstinence from intercourse" that is having an effect, not abstinence from sex. Lots of ways to play the game. Just saying no is probably not one of them for most kids.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  104. Maryann

    I believe abstinence should be taught to be the "best" choice for emotional and health concerns, then throw in the additional info about condoms and STD's with it as a last choice scenario for those hot and heavy moments when taught info ends up on the floor with the clothes. Hopefully one of the two options will win out.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  105. Ellen- St. Augustine, Florida

    I'd be surprised if 33 percent of middle schoolers could even spell abstinence, let alone know what it means. The only benefit to abstinence-only education would be a boost for the economy...mainly in the diaper market.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  106. albert Robinson

    The key words are "abstinence only." I don't know any honest people who were abstinent before marriage. Of course teens should be encouraged to wait before having sex, but a program that includes the advice to wait with consequences of not waiting and ways to avoid the consequences are more realistic. Many earlier studies have shown "abstinence only" isn't effective. The increase in teen sexual activity may be more of a statistical phenomenon than anything more substantive.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  107. Don Atlanta

    I think we should use every weapon we have. every scrap of knowledge, each pearl of wisdom. abstinence is the by far the safest method of birth control but sex education should play a large part too. if you can't or won't abstain, there are methods and techniques that are safer then others

    February 2, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  108. Bob

    Teen pregnancies are rising for the first time in ten years tells me that what we have been doing for those ten years has been working pretty well. Wish all goverment programs did that well, we should continue to stress abstinence education.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  109. Bernie Margolis

    Abstinence-only education is a good idea, but it should be presented in ways to which all kids can relate. Start with the economic ramifications of having children: money spent on diapers and baby formula instead of video games, CDs, and music concerts. Move on to the severe time constraints that infants impose: no more sleeping in and fewer evenings at the movies. Finally make the kids consider how infants will impact their social life: instead of hanging out with their friends they now hang out with the infant. For better or worse, they are forced into a permanent relationship with the baby’s other parent. Teenagers are naturally selfish so arguments of this nature will be far more effective than abstract notions of morality or salvation.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  110. Pete Waddington

    Jack,

    The important statistic missing from your question is what per cent of kids in each group ending up having a baby? In my mind that's the only measure that's important here and is what should guide our education decisions.

    Pete, Mt. Pleasant, SC

    February 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  111. Ren Knopf

    I can only wonder about who it is that sees this report as "game-changing. Given this nation's inability to deal with sex at pretty much any level, what would strike me as "game-changing" is not educating young adults by any and all means possible. Educating some not-so-young-adults wouldn't hurt either.
    Ren Knopf, Framingham, MA

    February 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  112. Denise

    I can't speak to this new study on abstinence only education. What I do know is that teen pregnancy and teen birth rates are up after 10 years of improvement. Is it just a coincidence that these rates have increased after 8 years of an administration that wanted abstinence only education and funded schools in such a preferential way? Studies have shown that when teens receive abstinence only education and do have sex, they are less likely to use protection. My experience as a nurse practitioner working with teens every day tells me that it is honesty and reality that matters – that includes abstinence education along with ways to protect oneself.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  113. Vic from NY

    Jack, it is not the school's job or federal government to teach sex education or abstinence. The problem is some parents has neglected their job and leave it up to the teachers and federal government to teach their child right from wrong. I am glad the government cut the budget and if it was me, I will cut the entire budget. Why should we spend millions of dollars to teach kids about safe sex and drugs when the parents can teach it at home for free. Shame on any parents who blames anyone for their teen pregnancy on anyone else other than themselves. Even Sarah Palin failed miserably in this area. The finger point should start at home and not the teachers and government.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  114. Maryann (Ontario, California)

    I believe abstinence should be taught to be the "best" choice for emotional and health concerns, then throw in the additional info about condoms and STD's with it as a last choice scenario for those hot and heavy moments when taught info ends up on the floor with the clothes. Hopefully one of the two options will win out.

    Ontario, Ca

    February 2, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
  115. Bob Calder

    Abstinence should be part of any curriculum but not the sole thing.

    The CDC keeps track of this. The last attack of the abstinence only zombies happened in 2006, the doctors in Atlanta at the CDC were subjected to lectures by ignorant friends of Bush and the religious right on how it needed to happen. The CDC staff knew it didn't work and had seen that it didn't work in Texas schools.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
  116. Paul, South Carolina

    Abstinence only education is a complete and epic failure. Face it, teens will have sex. They need to be prepared with knowledge. I do believe telling a teen they must wait until marriage is ridiculous. You simply place the subject higher on the list of things that are vices or taboo. One thing that should be stressed more in sexual education is age of consent laws and other laws related to sex. Here in South Carolina, we can't get a straight answer about those from our state government. Our state constitution says one thing but the law code says something else. When I was 15 and in my high school sex ed class, I feel that they tried to scare us away from ever having sex rather than genuinely teach us about things like diseases, pregnancy, contraceptives, and legal information.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
  117. jeane

    It should be a part of but not the only education provided to our youth.
    Also jack, I don't believe the study. Need more facts.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
  118. LaurenCB

    So one study shows abstinence-only sex ed works better, compared to massive numbers of studies that show comprehensive sex ed works better. The bad part about abstinence-only sex ed is that it doesn't give kids the knowledge they need to deal with sex, contraceptives, stds, rape, etc. If parents want to stress abstinence, then they can do that – at home.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  119. MrUniteUs

    Probably need more than one study.

    Media execs need to be encouraged to stop promoting entertainment that's promotes promiscuity.

    Sarah Palin and her daughter have made teenager pregnancy more acceptable.

    A distinction must be made between unmarried and married teenagers. Not unusual for married teenagers to have a child, especially 18 and 19 year olds.

    .

    February 2, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  120. Pamela Disel

    Here's an idea! Teach safe sex AND abstinence. This shouldn't even be a debate. Other than some people wanting their personal beliefs to be applied to everyone and enforced by our government there is no reason why we cannot educate our children about both avenues. As a spouse of a teacher in Hawaii, I have heard the horror stories first hand. Teenagers who have been taught abstinence have come up with some dangerous beliefs as a result of being refused information about something that is determined by the individual rather than the school or government. Let's stop kidding ourselves. Teenagers don't need us to tell them how to have sex. We should be giving them information about sex and abstinence and, most importantly, we should instill self-respect which is the best weapon against sex for those who are too young to have it.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  121. Jane/Seattle

    Logic needs to frame this neverending debate.

    Republicans and some others want NO Abortion and No sexual education or Contraception. Not logical.
    Most of those who favor allowing women to choose also favor total education. Logical.

    Children are Intelligent until the Adults start dumbing them down and/or Indoctrinating them! TEACH CHILDREN ABOUT EVERY CHOICE. HELP THEM DECIDE HOW TO MAKE THE BETTER CHOICES – as in waiting until they are mature enough to make carefully considered decisions. Truly Loving them is the most helpful advice I can think of as a MOM and Grandma.

    ALSO, Stop selling SEX and they might choose NOT to BUY IT!

    February 2, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  122. Brett

    It's really only one study, that isn't definitive. If they repeat these results a few times with a larger amount of kids, then I will believe it. You can't base policy off of one study.

    Brett V.
    San Antonio, TX

    February 2, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  123. Alex

    I am an agnostic who does not believe it the Bible or any religious book. I am a Libertarian Republican who hates the religious right and supports separation of church and state. However, what I do believe in is the Constitution. Along with with separation clause the First Amendment also afforded a free exercise of religion clause. I believe that teaching the use of condoms, or oral sex or what have you without the express written permission of the parents of the underage student flies in the face of freedom of religion. No matter how much I or anyone else disagree with some parts of religious teachings, parents have the right to teach their children that sex in any form before marriage is wrong. Public schools should not be able to subvert a parents right to mold their child's morals as they choose.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  124. Joanne Hall

    The operative word is "only" in the abstinence only debate. Why not provide youth with all the tools to protect themselves and figure they will make up their own minds? Many adults realize too late in their own sexual affairs that abstinence was an option, and these days sex without a condom makes as much sense as roasting a marshmallow on your finger.

    Joanne
    Knoxville, TN

    February 2, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  125. nancy-los angeles

    I too wonder where this data came from. Was abstinence-only being taught in public schools vs religious based schools? Obviously home life has a big influence . When my teens showed signs of active sexual interest, rather than ignore it and preach abstinence, I bought them condoms and said don't be foolish. Neither had children until married and in their 30's so something clicked.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
  126. Kane

    Abstinence-only programs should be a part of a comprehensive approach to teaching all the responsibilities of being sexually active...but public health issues such as sexually transmitted diseases should take precedence over pregnancy (not that pregnancy isn't an important part of the issue). That approach makes kids more conscious of protecting their body's well being. If they focus on pregnancy, kids who are in a hurry to grow up and think it looks easier than it is, will not truly be deterred. Understanding the lifelong consequences of STDs is far more effective in getting their attention. As they get older more emphasis should be placed on safe sex but approached as something they will need down the road (a bit like teaching business accounting in high school).

    February 2, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
  127. CJM, Gainesville, FL

    Jack, Bertrand Russel said "The reason social scientists do not more often arrive at the truth is that they frequently do not want to." The second ideological bias is heralded in place of empirical study is the same second politicians lose credibility with the general populace, whose typically response is just to stop listening. Contradicting studies like these crop up all the time, and only serve to cheapen the process of statesmanship and government. Politicians need to learn that the scientific community is not a gimmick to be manipulated with which to win elections, but instead a method to win the hearts of citizenry by finding honest solutions to social problems. What a world would that be to live in.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
  128. musheded

    Did no one else see the part about kids in 6th and/or 7th grade delaying two years on average when they first have sex for the first time? What, they're waiting all the way until they're 14! Does this not bother anyone else? I'm all for kids waiting to become sexually active, but something doesn't really work or delay if it is keeping kids from being sexually active until they are all of 14 years old. Fourteen isn't old enough to decide much of anything. Hopefully we could teach kids that there are other options for 'things' that they could do instead of putting themselves at risk of pregnancy (for girls) or STDs (girls and boys because yes children oral sex is still sex). I know everyone laughs at the old 'educational' films on sex-ed from WAY BACK WHEN, but things like heavy petting are a good option for highly hormonal children to show their feelings physically without taking on much more adult issues like pregnancy and STDs until they are older and able to be much more responsible.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
  129. J

    Kids need to know about STDs and ways to prevent transmitting such diseases with abstinence being one of a number of sound choices. Men and boys need to have ingrained that they need to use condoms. Even though parents would likely want abstinence to be the preferred choice, adolescence has it's own driving force and other information should not be neglected. A well informed teenager is better than an ignorant one.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  130. cjs

    so are there any data about pregnancy rates and STD rates from these studies?? or is abstinence the only thing evaluated

    February 2, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  131. Christen

    I absolutely think abstinence should still be encouraged in sex ed... and of course teens should still be educated on the implications of choosing to have sex. There is such a disconnect in today's culture between sex and pregnancy to the point where every sex education program should be required to say : "sex makes babies." There is a high percentage of teens who get pregnant while using some sort of birth control... and that simply cannot be blamed on the message of abstinence. Its ridiculous how much abstinence education gets blamed for every problem seen among teens.
    The more we throw out 'abstinence' as a outdated idea and refuse to even suggest it to students, the more we will see students feel unsupported in a 'minority, outdated' decision to stay abstinent. We need to start treating teens like the adults they are and start teaching them that the choices they make have actual consequences. And if they are ready to face the consequences for having sex, by all means, live it up!
    But with 4,000 abortions occurring every day, it is evident that people feel like when they make a CHOICE to have sex, they can still ignore the consequences of such a choice... and our society says: "its all about you..." What kind of teens are we raising with this message??

    February 2, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  132. Rachael, West Palm Beach

    Abstinence programs have great intentions. Safe sex programs are realistic. There is way too much sex related advertisement on tv and in magazines to keep teenage hormones at bay. I bet you plenty of teenagers think that they're ready for sex but are willing to do it safely because of safe sex programs in school telling them all about STDs and teen pregnancy. The point is, teenagers could make educated decisions about sex, instead of letting the hormones do all the work. Telling a teenager what not to do....usually backfires. Promote safe sex in a non awkward way and maybe teenagers will use the resources they learned about and should utilize if they're interested in having sex. I think a lot of teen pregnancies would never happen if they felt comfortable enough to ask for birth control of any kind.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
  133. Derek

    How does abstinence only prevent pregnancy? The program is based on the gamble that the kids will not be sexually active. At least with educating them with contraceptives they will be safer about it. A good mix seems to be the most logical.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
  134. D-towner

    The study followed 6th and 7th graders for only two years, effectively ending by the time participants were age 15. I'd like to see how the statistics pan out when you extend the study for an additional 5 years, maybe these students delay sexual activity but still do not wait for marraige. Additionally, we need statistics on how many of the sexually active teens used safe sex practices. It may be that only 30% of teens in this program were sexually active, but if a larger fraction of them neglected to follow safe sex practices then it the program doesn't really decrease pregnancy and STDs among teens.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  135. Tom Masty

    Jack,

    I guess we will have to go back and tell Nancy Reagan she wasn't so wrong after all (regarding Just Say No).

    February 2, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  136. Andrea in Raleigh, NC

    Jack,

    Abstinence-only education should have no place in public schools! All public school systems should have a comprehensive form of sexual education, which means that every option, from birth control to abstinence should be taught, regardless of religious beliefs. This should never be a religious issue, it should be a health issue!

    February 2, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  137. Rafael

    I think it is important that we lower teen pregnacies & STD's in this country before it gets out of control. If they believe that what they are doing will help in the long run then they should not stop. I believe parents play an even bigger role in educating their kids about values & principles. It's a shame that we care so little about our kids future, seems to me that we'd rather worry about today & not tomorrow. In the end it doesn't matter how abstinence programs are involed, at least they care. Have a good Jack.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
  138. Kevin

    As the authors noted in their study, their findings do not apply to other abstinence programs, specifically because this program was dissimilar from others (did not attempt to "scare" kids by telling them that condoms always fail, encouraged them to use condoms, etc). Teen pregnancy rates have dropped substantially since 1990, and 86% of the decline has been shown to be attributable to increased use of effective contraception. If adding in a section encouraging on abstinence improves adolescents' health, then all the better. At the same time, it's important to remember that this isn't the first study to look at abstinence-only education programs. Of the studies conducted, the majority show that such programs do nothing to reduce pregnancy rates, and a few have shown them to be detrimental to adolescent sexual health.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  139. Wanda Medina

    I am a Chicago mother of 4 boys, 1 teenager, 1 pre-teen, 1 pre-schooler and 1 toddler. I believe abstinence-education should play the role of being the only "sex ed" course in our schools, alongside parents educating youth about self-control and the value of one's self worth. I just don't understand why there would be any parent out there that wouldn't want their son or daughter to preserve themselves as long as they could. Be it until they get married which I personally agree with, or just keeping the number of sexual partners they might have throughout their life. And, abstinence-education not only speaks of sexual abstinence, but abstaining from alcohol and drugs which also is a major problem with our youth.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  140. Elizabeth

    I teach abstinence education and I can tell you it's terribly misunderstood. I use a combination of several curriculums all of which have nothing to do with morals but more with myth vs. truth. Also these curriculums focus strongly on the child, the child's goals, personality types, the steps to intimacy, communication, conflict resolution, etc... Abstinence is not teaching "just say no" and is so much more than cramming teen pregnancy and STD's down a child's throat. What parent wouldn't want their child to be taught this way?By the way, condom use is discussed as well as the other methods of birth control.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  141. Live from Reno Nevada

    What a waiste of money that is. LOL.

    However I do think more people are going abstinent as opposed to the permiscuity displayed in previous generations, i.e., the free love generation versus the HIV era. Peope need to know that having sex can kill you versus making you go blind as our parents told us.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  142. Rafael

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    I think it is important that we lower teen pregnacies & STD's in this country before it gets out of control. If they believe that what they are doing will help in the long run then they should not stop. I believe parents play an even bigger role in educating their kids about values & principles. It's a shame that we care so little about our kids future, seems to me that we'd rather worry about today & not tomorrow. In the end it doesn't matter how abstinence programs are involed, at least they care. Have a good Jack.

    Rafael

    Texas

    February 2, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  143. Julie F

    I think having the abstinence program would completely work. A lot of teachers hold off sex ed, and when i had heath, my teacher fell under the catorgory which didnt teach us. Just shows teachers arent following the standards but if i had a subject dedicated to abstinence, i would completely endure what i would be taught. I think it would be a great program for me and all my friends. Im in highschool, so therefore i know these things. I know my friends , and if they were properly informed i think they wouldnt have sex to began with.98% of my friends regret their first time, thats why i think learning about abstinence will play a crucial role in teenage morals. I hope this program will show the benefits of abstinence!

    February 2, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
  144. Lisa

    I'm a sexually active teen and think that an abstinence only program would be a bad idea. The society we live in highly revolves around sex- tv shows, magazines, movies, websites... Nothing is going to stop a teen from being sexually active if that's what they want to be. I think teachers should highly incourage abstinence and stress the benefits of waiting but not take out the part of sex-ed about keeping yourself safe from unplanned pregnancy and STDs. If a teenager chooses to be sexually active he/she should know of the consequences and ways to proteect themselves and then it is his/her decision after weighing his/her options.
    Hunterdon county, New Jersey

    February 2, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
  145. Chika Uzokwe

    If you allow abstinence kind of sex education to succeed what will happen to the political terms; Pro-choice/pro-death (depending your political affiliation) and Pro-life. How is the GOP gonna hunt the votes of the Catolics?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
  146. Silas Kain - Boston

    Let's hope "abstinence only" is promoted in areas where the ultra right reside and is a 100% success. The less radical right conservatives in the next generation, the better.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  147. kristal

    So abstinence only education has lowered the percentage of sixth and seventh graders who have sex in the next two years? What about the lastest study that teen pregnancy is on the rise again? I guess those same kids are waiting until they are in high school to get pregnant?

    February 2, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  148. Lynne. Stockton, California

    When will this country adopt a healthy, realistic attitude toward teenage sexuality and focus on the real problem which is teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease? Teens deserve open and honest discussions with their parents and a comprehensive sex education program in school. Abstinence only programs are completely unrealistic and part of the hide our heads in the sand approach.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  149. Silas Scarborough

    There's really only one job for any animal on the planet and that's to teach the young about procreation. Somehow the government decided it had a right to interfere in this parental responsibility and that's been going on for pretty much the same period as teen pregnancy has been claimed to have exploded.

    The government and its apologists will claim that the problem would have been much worse if not for the intervention. Of course they would claim that as the only logical conclusion is they completely screwed it up.

    There are no politics in this. Jefferson covered quite well what happens when people fear the government, doesn't matter which party.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  150. Laura Los Angeles, CA

    Abstinence-only education does not pay attention to the large amount of studies that have already been done on this subject. In today's society, while some may choose to abstain until marriage, to use abstinence-only as the main form of education is naive. In this particular study, do we know the populations where each type of education was used? There are many factors that could cause these figures to be misleading but the main point is that in comparison to other developed nations our rates of teen pregnancies and STDs are embarrassing. We can certainly stress abstinence as the best option, but we must not be naive to the fact that most kids will not choose this route so it is our responsibility to educate them on safe alternatives. I myself believe in abstinence until marriage, but I also believe in protecting the health and safety of America's youth by teaching methods of contraception and disease prevention.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  151. Michael

    The point of safe-sex education is about informing adolescents about the dangers of having sex and how to avoid pregnancy and STD's. Show a study about the number of people who have gotten STD's or pregnant using safe-sex education as opposed to abstinence only education.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  152. Aaron

    The report neglects to say whether or not the 32% of the "abstinence only" crowd used a condom.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  153. joe

    Our children need to be taught the true meaniing of sex: to unite a man and a woman in lasting love and to procreate. As a nation we have made sex into a sort of game which we can play with as many people as possible. Lets get back to basics. Sex is good – real good -it should not be flaunted or distributed around. Pretty soon there will be people wanting to marry thir sister or dog because it is their "preference" and we will see this too become condoned by our beloved government.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
  154. Doreen Suran RN

    Abstinence is one way to prevent disease and pregnancy. What young people lack today to a full understanding of all the consequences of unsafe sex. Give them the full and visual truth about SDT's and teen pregnancy and how to decrease the risks. Scare the s...t out of them, just like they did for my generation.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
  155. QuakerGirl

    The fact that one type of program may delay sexual activity isn't definitive proof that fits the objective of sex ed, which is, after all, to keep kids physically and emotionally healthy. Whether we think that means waiting until marriage or waiting to have safe sex when a teen feels ready, there is no proof that this program accomplishes either.

    While how long a student waits to have sex is certainly an important measure, the sole fact that students in some programs that encouraged some form of abstinence waited longer doesn't tell us the whole story. For example, across all programs, how many of the teens used protection when they did have sex? How many felt ready when they had sex? How many regretted it? How many felt any negative emotional consequences? Without answering these sorts of questions, we have no way to tell whether this program is beneficial or not.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  156. Henry Clayton

    Though I lack scientific evidence, I am firmly convinced that a very active sex life from early adolescence on , leads to a more active sex life in later years, at least for males. Teaching people not to have sex is not religous, it is unnatural. Yes, kids need to be taught not to cause pregnancy.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  157. ron - american living in Copenhagen

    Abstinence only??? how ridiculous some people are - if they can't (or refuse to) remember when they were teenagers - I agree, these kids are far too young to take on the responsibilities involved with sex (std's , pregnancy, parenthood, etc.) but trying to keep them in the dark about sex will certainly not make things better - hey this is 2010, completely different social structure than 1950 -60 for the kids!!! I am 65 years old, and I still think sex education should be taught, and not as a joke - it should be part of a science or biology curriculum

    February 2, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  158. frankie

    This study was not based on specially-conducted classes, not the usual morality-based abstinence-only sex ed. The results were based on the what the students felt like reporting, and it was only one study in one place. As this study demonstrates, sex ed classes should be very straightforward and honest and include a serious discussion of abstinence.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  159. Ondine

    Abstinence-only will never work because it doesn't teach the students what they need to know. Knowledge of contraception can improve the course of a young person's life similar to the skills learned in auto mechanics when your car won't start and home ec when you need to cook a dinner. We should at least provide the knowledge we have to the students and it becomes their responsibility whether and when to heed what they have been taught. Religious nuts should keep their kids out of public schools if full access to knowledge is against their morality code. It is terrible for them to try to prevent my child from hearing the facts from someone certified to teach them.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:52 pm |