'Abstinence Only' Sex Ed Ineffective
Research shows government-funded programs ineffective
April 17, 2007— -- Just saying no may not be an effective strategy in keeping kids from having sex, a newly released study reports.
The research could have major implications for the $176 million in government funds that abstinence-only sex-education programs receive annually -- funding that is set to expire on June 30 unless Congress takes some action to extend it.
The evaluation, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, examined the impact of the abstinence-only-until-marriage programs funded under the 1996 federal welfare reform law.
Through the study, more than 2,000 children were randomly assigned to groups that received abstinence-only counseling and those who received no counseling. Over the next four to six years, numerous surveys were done to determine the impact of these programs on the behavior of the kids.
Researchers found no evidence that these abstinence-only programs increased rates of sexual abstinence.
The study also showed that the students participating in these abstinence-only programs had a similar number of sexual partners as their peers not in the programs, and that the age of first sex was similar for both groups too.
"The basic takeaway message is that there are no differences between the two groups on any behavioral outcomes," says lead study author Christopher Trenholm, a senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research.
Rather than calming the disagreements over how the federal government should approach teen sex as a public health issue, the report has, if anything, added fuel to the debate
Some sexuality experts say the study only confirms what most sexuality researchers have already known -- that abstinence-only programs simply do not work.
"The data coming forth now is simple proof -- solid, unassailable evidence to back up what many of us have known from the get-go," says Joy Davidson, a certified sex therapist in New York City who is on the board of directors of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapist.