Abstinence and Comprehensive Sex Education in our schools

By AbstinenceWorks.org

There is a common perception that school-based comprehensive sex education programs are effective at protecting teens from the problems related to sexual activity while abstinence education programs are not. In fact, some have called for the complete abandonment of abstinence education. With 1 in 4 teen girls in the U.S. now infected with an STD,1 there is clearly a need for more effective programs to protect adolescents. However, before a program can be called effective it is necessary to clarify what “effective” means. This document offers basic criteria for effective programs and presents evidence about the effectiveness of both comprehensive and abstinence-based sex education in our schools.

A. What is an Effective Program? After more than 15 years of evaluating school-based sex education programs, the Institute for Research & Evaluation suggests that effective programs should produce:

  1. Sustained Results—The program’s impact on teens’ behavior should last for a substantial period of time, at least 12 months following their program participation.
  2. Broad-based Impacts—Claims of significant program impact should be based on the entire group of program participants and not just on subgroups.
  3. Real Protection—The program should impact the teen behaviors that have been proven to be protective: sexual abstinence or consistent condom use (i.e., using a condom every time).Consistent condom use is necessary because several studies have found that non-consistent use provided inadequate STD protection or resulted in higher rates of STDs.2 However, even consistent condom use does not provide complete protection from STDs3 or prevent the increased emotional harm and sexual violence associated with teen sexual activity.

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