A recent study conducted in the United States has found that an experimental abstinence programme can help delay young teenagers from engaging in sexual activity. The study, which was published on Monday, differs from traditional abstinence programmes, as it does not preach saving sex until marriage or criticize the use of condoms. Instead, the study involved assignments to help children, around the age of 12, see the negative consequences of sexual activity at their age. This included having them create lists of pros and cons themselves, and researchers found that their lists of cons far outnumbered the pros.
The February edition of Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine features this study, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and involved 662 black children in Philadelphia. The students were divided into four groups: eight-hour abstinence-only classes, safe sex classes, classes that incorporated both approaches, and classes focused on general healthy behavior. Results from the first three classes were compared to a control group that only received general health classes.
When surveyed two years later, around one-third of abstinence-only students reported engaging in sexual activity since the classes ended, compared to approximately 49% of the control group. Sexual activity rates did not significantly differ in the other two groups as compared to the control group.
Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Programme, expressed hope that this study will revive government interest in abstinence-only sex education. Lead researcher, John Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has dedicated much of his career to finding ways to reduce risky behavior among inner-city youth.
Monica Rodriguez, of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, suggested that the program studied may be less successful with older, sexually-experienced teens. Almost a quarter of the teenagers involved in the study reported having already engaged in sexual activity, which is comparable to other studies of urban, mostly black middle-school children aged around 11 to 13.