New Study On Sex Education

A new University of Pennsylvania study on sex education in schools says that giving abstinence-only sex education to pre-teens is effective in preventing early sexual activity. That means it can also reduce the rates for teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD's). The basic finding in this study is that kids who are taught to practice abstinence tend to wait longer before having sex than those kids who are educated about contraception.

Abstinence Only

The study concentrated on 662 students in grades 6-7. The students were chosen at random to participate in an 8-hour abstinence-only sex education program, an 8-hour safe-sex education program, an 8 to12 hour combination abstinence and safe-sex program, or an 8-hour general health class control group.

The researchers studied the rates for self-reported sexual intercourse from the abstinence-only education group as compared to the control group. By the end of the study, the abstinence-only students reported a 33% reduction in sexual intercourse as compared to those students in the control group. Among students who reported sexual activity during the study, those in the abstinence-only group reported fewer incidents of recent sexual activity (20.6%) as compared to the rate of the control group (29.0%). Those in the abstinence-only group also reported a reduced rate of multiple sexual partners (8.8%) in comparison with those in the control group (14.1%). Two years later, one-third of the graduates of the abstinence-only group reported having sex compared to fully half of the control group.

Useful Tool

This study was a combined effort by researchers Drs. John and Loretta Jemmott of the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Geoffrey Fong from Waterloo, Ontario's University of Waterloo and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Dr. John Jemmott published the results of the study in the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Jemmott said that the study proved that abstinence-only classes can be a useful tool in combating the spread of STD's.

"Abstinence-only interventions may have an important role in delaying sexual activity until a time later in life when the adolescent is more prepared to handle to consequences of sex," said Jemmott. "The take-home message is that we need a variety of interventions to address an epidemic like HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy… There are populations that really want an abstinence intervention."

Jemmott further commented that there are many parents who are against talking to children about condoms and that the study results showed that abstinence programs can be included in the mix of sex education programs offered by the public school system. 

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