New Study Claims Abstinence Education Ineffective, Contradicts Research

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 7, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Study Claims Abstinence Education Ineffective, Contradicts Research Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 7,

Washington, DC ( — A new study claims that abstinence education is ineffective in modifying the behaviors of teenagers and getting them to have less sex less often. However, the study, which only examined a couple dozen programs, contradicts previous research showing abstinence education has proven results.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy conducted the new review of both abstinence and comprehensive sexual education programs.

"At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners," the group claims.

The Wednesday report says comprehensive sexual education that has abstinence only as a part of the curriculum shows better results in those categories.

"Two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive programs that supported both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives for sexually active teens had positive behavior effect," the report said.

Valerie Huber, the executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, says the media has been too quick to rely on one-sided reports blasting abstinence.

She says other studies show so-called "’comprehensive’ programs do little more than promote contraceptive use, spending less than 5% of their course time promoting abstinence."

Huber pointed to a recent Health and Human Services study that found sex-ed programs "exaggerate the effectiveness of condoms and encourage a false sense of protection."

Other studies, such as one in Georgia, found teen pregnancy rates have been cut in half, dropping for 11 straight years since the state mandated abstinence education.

In contrast, Huber says abstinence programs "offer a holistic approach, teaching teens how to build healthy relationships, increase self-worth and set appropriate boundaries in order to achieve future goals."

"Abstinence education shares the realities of sexually transmitted diseases and the best way to prevent them," she added.

Huber concludes saying that parents are the best indicator of what works for their children.

"Not surprisingly, a recent Zogby survey shows that when parents understand what abstinence vs. ‘comprehensive’ sex education actually teaches, they prefer abstinence education by a 2-1 margin," she said.

The new study only reviewed 48 programs despite the existence of hundreds of abstinence education efforts. Observers also noted that Douglas Kirby, a senior research scientist at ETR Associates, may have been biased.

ETR produces comprehensive sexual education programs for school use, including some of the studies reviewed in the report.

The report was politically timed as Congress is considering a bill for the Health and Human Services department that provides $141 million for abstinence education efforts.