What the Research Shows: Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Sex Education Does Not Protect Teenagers' Health
Evidence shows that sexuality education that stresses the importance of waiting to have sex while providing accurate, age-appropriate, and complete information about how to use contraceptives effectively to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can help teens make healthy and responsible life decisions. Yet there is currently no federal program dedicated to supporting this approach. Instead, since 1996, the federal government has funneled more than a billion dollars into abstinence-only-until-marriage programming, even in the face of clear evidence that these programs do not work.
Below is a review of recent research on the issue of sexuality education:
Giving teens the information they need to make responsible life decisions about sex helps teens delay sex and protects their health.
Pamela K. Kohler, RN. et al., Abstinence-Only and Comprehensive Sex Education and the Initiation of Sexual Activity and Teen Pregnancy, Journal of Adolescent Health, Spring 2008.
· A review of 115 sex education programs found that curricula that stress waiting to have sex and provide information about using contraception effectively can significantly delay the initiation of sex, reduce the frequency of sex, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom or contraceptive use among teens.
Douglas Kirby, Ph.D. et al., Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, November 2007.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Fact Sheet: Young People at Risk: HIV/AIDS Among America’s Youth,
Parents want schools to teach comprehensive sexuality education and do not think taxpayer dollars should be spent on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
National Public Radio, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Sex Education in America, January 2004.
Advocates for Youth and SIECUS, “Americans Oppose Abstinence-Only Education Censoring Information on Contraception,” 1999.
Studies show that most abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective, and some show that these programs deter teens who become sexually active from protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy or STDs.
Christopher Trenholm et al., Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs,
A recent congressional report found that widely used federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula distort information, misrepresent the facts, and promote gender stereotypes.
· More than 80 percent of the abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula reviewed contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.
· The curricula reviewed misrepresent the effectiveness of contraceptives in preventing STDs and unintended pregnancy. They also contain false information about the risks of abortion, blur religion and science, promote gender stereotypes, and contain basic scientific errors.
“The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs,” Prepared for Rep. Henry A. Waxman,