Contradicting the recent CDC report . . .
Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can persuade a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
-- From "Abstinence-only programs might work, study says" by Rob Stein, Washington Post Staff Writer 2/2/10
Only about a third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active.
The findings are the first clear evidence that an abstinence program could work.
"I think we've written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence," said John B. Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who led the federally funded study. "Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used."
The research, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, comes amid intense debate over how to reduce sexual activity, pregnancies, births and sexually transmitted diseases among children and teenagers. After falling for more than a decade, the numbers of births, pregnancies and STDs among U.S. teens have begun increasing.
The Obama administration eliminated more than $170 million in annual federal funding targeted at abstinence programs after a series of reports concluded that the approach was ineffective. Instead, the White House is launching a $114 million pregnancy prevention initiative that will fund only programs that have been shown scientifically to work -- a program the administration on Monday proposed expanding to $183 million.
The study is the first to evaluate an abstinence program using a carefully designed approach comparing it with several alternative strategies and following subjects for an extended period of time, considered the kind of study that produces the highest level of scientific evidence.
The abstinence program had no negative effects on condom use, which has been a major criticism of the abstinence approach.
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