Does Abstinence Only Curriculum Make a Difference?
David A Zanis, an Associate Professor of Social Work at Temple University in Harrisburg, PA published a study of the “Use of Sexual Abstinence Only Curriculum with Sexually Active Youths” in 2005. The study was of a group of 31 ‘high risk’ students ranging in age from 12 to 16 who voluntarily participated in the program. The results showed that the Sexual Abstinence Only curriculum was unsuccessful in reducing sexual activity among this particular group of young people.
The study (1) featured in Zanis’s paper was very limiting, the 31 students featured were all classified as ‘high risk’ and were referred to an alternative school-based ...view middle of the document...
The number of sexually active students who would say ‘yes’ if asked to have sex dropped from 68% at the pretest to just 11% posttest. But saying and doing are two different things as all of the sexually active students reported that they had engaged in sex in the 30 day period after completing the SAO program. The sexually active students wanted sex education, but wanted information about sexuality not abstinence they wanted information on where to obtain contraception, how to use it, and the effectiveness of it. Abstinent students completing the same SAO program wanted to continue abstinence education as well as a desire to remain abstinent. The abstinent students felt overwhelming pressure to engage in sex from their sexually active peers, but after the program one student said “I now know that I can say not to boys about sex because I know that they know that it is OK not to have sex”.
The students that had been sexually active before the SAO program reported that they had continued to engage in sex after completing the program. This does not mean that abstinence education does not work, rather that it may not be the best choice for youths that are already sexually active. It is difficult to have a true reading due to the small sample of students and the potential bias of the researcher in interpreting the data.
Another study (2) that looked at abstinence only education for sixth and seventh graders showed greater success at keeping the kids from having sex within a two-year period. The study featured an 8 hour abstinence lesson and showed that 2/3 of the sixth and seventh graders remained abstinent for 2 years, and 1/3 had engaged in sexual intercourse in the same time frame. In comparison more that half of students that were taught about safe sex and condom use engaged in sexual intercourse within the two year period. 40% of students who received 8 to 12 hour lessons that incorporated both safe sex and abstinence education reported having sex at the two year mark. Students who received only instruction on good health, but not involving sex reported 47% having sex in the two years after the class. This study shows that abstinence only education can be effective in delaying sexual activity among kids that have not had sex yet. The study involved 662 African American students from four public middle schools in a city in the Northeastern United States. It was conducted between 2001 and 2004. (3)
In recent years the federal government has invested greatly in abstinence-only education. Established in the 1996 overhaul of welfare, it did not allow talk of any forms of birth control other that to explain their limitations. Critics claimed that by denying education on contraception led to a lack of knowledge among young people and in 2010 President Obama cut funding for abstinence-only education in his budget.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy stated “It is unreasonable to expect any single...