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Do Abstinence Sex Ed Programs Really Work?

 

Q. It's a given that parents want their children to save sex for marriage, for a wide range of reasons. But how smart is it to make their sex education solely about abstaining from sex? Doesn't that set them up to get pregnant and contract sexually-transmitted diseases, out of ignorance?

 

No, because abstinence sex ed teaches them the medical and health information they need - "where babies come from" - along with much, much more. It's just that the sex techniques, contraceptives, abortion availability and other controversial aspects of the more liberal "comprehensive" sex education are omitted.

 

Recent research on five abstinence programs shows that they are valid and work very well to prevent teen pregnancy and STD's much better than comprehensive sex ed programs do.

 

According to Dr. Joe McIlhaney, founder of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit scientific organization, a quality abstinence education program cuts teen pregnancy rates significantly.

 

In their research on the Choosing the Best abstinence program, researchers Stan E. Weed, Nicole Anderson and Lynn Tingle compared about 200 Georgia middle-school students who attended the program with 140 peers who received four state-approved abstinence lectures in class.

 

The students who completed the interactive, multilesson Choosing the Best program scored significantly higher on abstinence issues than the control group.

 

But the most significant finding came a year later, when the students in both groups were asked if they had started having sexual intercourse. Only 11 percent of the Choosing the Best students said they had sexual intercourse, compared with 21 percent of the control group.

 

The findings suggest that abstinence programs need to be well-designed, long-term, interactive and taught by motivated teachers to be effective, researchers concluded.

 

Data on four other abstinence programs -- Teen STAR, Worth the Wait, the Choice Game Curriculum and Peers Educating Peers about Positive Values - indicates they also are much more effective than what's in place in most public schools.

 

Criticism of abstinence programs as having false or misleading information about sexuality is unfounded, Dr. McIlhaney said, since the material being cited had already been deleted from abstinence program curricula or Web pages.

 

Homework: See Dr. McIlhaney's organization, www.medinstitute.org

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.ShowandTellforParents.com Controversies 13 2008

 

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