WASHINGTON – Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.
“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” among teenagers, the study concluded.
The report, which was based on a review of research into teen sexual behavior, was being released today by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs were having “positive outcomes” including teenagers “delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use.”
“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,” said the report.
Patra Stephan, a spokesperson for the National Abstinence Education Association, said that the group wanted to examine the study but that there is evidence that an emphasis on abstinence, indeed, has positive results.
A spending bill before Congress for the Department of Health and Human Services would provide $141 million in assistance for community-based, abstinence-only sex education programs, $4 million more than what President Bush had requested.
The study, conducted by Douglas Kirby, a senior research scientist at ETR Associates, also sought to debunk what the report called “myths propagated by abstinence-only advocates” including: that comprehensive sex education promotes promiscuity, hastens the initiation of sex or increases its frequency, and sends a confusing message to adolescents.
None of these was found to be accurate, Kirby wrote.