JHU Study Claims Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Other Research Disagrees
by Steven Ertelt
December 29, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A new study published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health claims the abstinence pledges teens sign to refrain from sex until they’re married are ineffective. The study claims teens signing such pledges are likely to engage in premarital sex and more likely not to use birth control.
The JHU study examined federal data and found that more than half of teens became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they signed the abstinence pledge or not.
"Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," HU researcher Janet Rosenbaum said. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."
The study only included 289 students who were 17 in 1996 when they took the virginity pledge and compared with them 645 students who did not take a pledge.
By 2001, JHU found 82 percent of those teens taking a pledge had broken their no-premarital-sex promise.
"It seems that pledgers aren’t really internalizing the pledge," Rosenbaum told the Washington Post. "It seems like abstinence has to come from an individual conviction rather than participating in a program."
However, the study appeared to indicate that the abstinence programs are not ineffective — they’re just not reinforced by either the schools, parents or society.
Five years after taking a virginity pledge more than 80 percent of pledgers denied ever making such a promise.
That is a point Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association made in her comments to the Post — which had her saying the study was flawed and too ideological.
"It is remarkable that an author who employs rigorous research methodology would then compromise those standards by making wild, ideologically tainted and inaccurate analysis regarding the content of abstinence education programs," Huber said.
Huber points to other data showing abstinence education programs effective.
She points to research from Dr. Stan Weed, leading researcher on youth behavior and President of The Institute for Research and Evaluation.
His studies show abstinence education can cut in half the rates of teen sexual activity, and that abstinence education classes do not deter sexually active teens from using condoms.
"Not only do Dr. Weed’s studies provide proof that abstinence education is the best health message for teens," Huber said, but she says his research shows "so-called comprehensive sex education has little evidence of success."
"Contraception based programs spend less than 10 percent of class time promoting abstinence," Huber said.
Huber also points to an October 2008 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health by several researchers showing that those who pledged to abstain from sex were much more likely to do so than their peers.
In the absence of pledging, an estimated 42.4 percent of virgins with characteristics indicating an inclination to pledge initiate intercourse within three years. In the presence of the pledge, 33.6 percent of such youth initiate intercourse," the study found.
Pledgers were also no less likely to use a condom than their peers, that study found.
Some 17 states have decided to reject the abstinence funds from the federal government because their governors or state legislatures want to promote comprehensive sexual education.
The findings of the new study were published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Related web sites:
National Abstinence Education Association – https://www.abstinenceassociation.org
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