New Study Shows Abstinence Education Effective

National   |   Rachel Turner   |   Mar 30, 2012   |   5:46PM   |   Washington, DC

Research published this week revealed more evidence that a Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) abstinence program is effective in delaying sexual onset. Four major conclusions are drawn from the article, entitled, Impact of the Choosing the Best Program in Communities Committed to Abstinence Education.

  1. Students in an SRA class were more likely to delay the onset of sexual activity from pre to posttest than their peers.
  2. The findings of this study are more realistic and relevant than the Jemmott study on abstinence, as well as most “comprehensive” sex ed. research since the study occurred in schools.
  3. The study was conducted with schools and communities that supported the SRA abstinence message for their students
  4. SRA messages must be reinforced throughout the teen years in order to sustain effect.

Choosing the Best Journey, a SRA abstinence-centered program, conducted a randomized, controlled study with 9th grade students. Students were surveyed at the beginning of the 9th grade and received a follow up survey at the end of the year. At the conclusion of the 9th grade, students who were part of the 8-lesson SRA program were 1.5 times more likely to delay sex than the control group. In addition, the study found that the more lessons students received, the less likely they were to initiate sex. The study is important because the rigorous design was implemented in a classroom setting, the typical site for sex education, which makes the results much more realistic and relevant than the Jemmott abstinence study[1] and most Sexual Risk Reduction (SRR) contraceptive-centered research, which were typically not conducted in a school-based setting.[2]

The setting is additionally important because the study stresses that the program was implemented in the schools that desired this type of education. This confirms that there is significant community buy in across the country for SRA programs. This finding corroborates the results of a report recently released by HHS in which 70% of parents favored a clear SRA message for their children.[3]

The study’s findings also reiterated the importance of reinforcing the abstinence message in order to maintain initial behavioral effects. Without bolstering the message each year, the results greatly diminished, suggesting that the overwhelmingly sexual communications teens receive from multiple venues has a negative and neutralizing influence.

Valerie Huber, Executive Director of NAEA, commented: “This new study adds to 22 other peer reviewed studies showing SRA education has a positive impact on student sexual behavior. This rigorous research design adds an important exclamation point to the efficacy of abstinence-centered education. Schools that are eager to implement a sex education strategy that helps their students avoid all the risks of teen sex should take this study seriously. Officials who are crafting sex education policies at the state and federal levels should also take the results seriously. “

The report was released at a crucial time in policymaking decisions. Several states are currently revisiting their sex education laws, while Congress is about to consider the President’s FY 2013 budget which calls for an end to SRA programs.

“Anyone who opposes SRA abstinence-centered education must be honest in their antagonism. They can no longer say that the approach ‘doesn’t work,’ but must admit that their opposition is simply an ideological distaste for programs that encourage teens to wait for sex,” added Huber.

Read the entire study here.

[1] Jemmott, J. B., Jemmott L. S.,Fong G. T. (2010). Efficacy of a theory-based abstinence-only intervention over 24 months. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010;164(2):152-159.
[2] Eriksen, I., Weed, S. (2011). A Closer Look at the Evidence:
Abstinence Education and Comprehensive Sex Education in America’s Schools. Salt Lake City: Institute for Research & Evaluation. Available online at xxx
[3] HHS (2010). National survey of adolescents and their parents: Attitudes and opinions about sex and abstinence. Washington, D. C. : Author.