Thursday, February 4, 2010

The efficacy of abstinence education

The Washington Post on February 2, 2010 reported on a randomized control study on sexual abstinence among early teens, Efficacy of a theory-based abstinence-only intervention over 24 months” was carried out by John B. Jemmott III, PhD; Loretta S. Jemmott, PhD, RN and Geoffrey T. Fong, PhD published in the February edition of Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine and adds to the growing body of research showing the effectiveness of abstinence education programs.

The study showed that a high-risk population of 6&7 graders receiving abstinence-centered education had the following behavioral changes:

•Reduced sexual initiation (32.6% abstinence intervention vs 51.8% for “safer sex” and 41.8% for “comprehensive” sex education.)

•Reduced the number of sexual partners (a crucial determinant in acquiring an STD),

•The author cites the value of a single focused abstinence approach for encouraging sexual delay, as opposed to a mixed “comprehensive” message. (AP article 2/2/10: “Jemmott said the single focus may have been better at encouraging abstinence than the other approaches in his study. ‘The message was not mixed with any other messages,’ said Jemmott)

Clearly this information challenges policies that claim to want to fund “evidence-based programs,” yet ignore the results of abstinence programmes such as this important study.

This new study proves,
* Single-focused abstinence-centered education is the most effective approach in reducing teen sex.

The study clearly showed that students receiving the Abstinence centered approach were significantly less likely to initiate sex than either the “Safe-Sex” and “Comprehensive” sex education approaches. The safer sex and comprehensive interventions did not reduce sexual initiation.

* Abstinence education has a long-term positive impact on teens’ sexual behavior. Reduction in teen sex continued over a 24-month timeframe.

* Abstinence education is effective among high-risk teens.
The study was conducted among urban, low-income, African American youth, a population at high risk for pregnancy and STDs, including HIV.

The abstinence–centered approach is preferred over condom-based instruction in many communities throughout the US, as cited in the study (this is also true of many communities throughout the world). Offering parents and schools a choice in the type of sex education their children receive not only supports pluralism but the value of local control in education.