Magazine article Work & Family Life

Is 'Abstinence-Only' Working for Teens?

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Is 'Abstinence-Only' Working for Teens?

Article excerpt

Q As the parent of a teenager, I'm very interested in how the abstinence-only sex education programs are working. Is it true that the rate of teenage pregnancies has dropped?

-N.B., Tampa, FL

A Teen pregnancy has been declining in the U.S. since 1990, about eight years before the public abstinence-only sex education programs started. Even so, teenage girls give birth to almost 12 percent of the babies born in this country-double the rate in England and Canada and eight times the rate in Japan.

Abstinence is the only sure way to prevent unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). But at least two national studies of teens who pledged not to have sex before marriage have found that a majority did not live up to their vows. Another study, published in The American Journal of Sociology, found that teens who promised to remain abstinent until marriage delayed sexual activity by an average of 18 months, but they were more likely to have unprotected sex when they broke their pledge than those who did not pledge in the first place.

Cynthia Dailard of the Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that programs that promote abstinence and also provide information on the benefits of contraception for those who don't remain abstinent are more successful in delaying the start of sexual activity and reducing the incidence of teen pregnancies and STDs than abstinence-only programs. …

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