At the start of the study, 11 percent of the boys and 4 percent of the girls had had sexual intercourse. Those numbers increased to 12 percent of the boys and 8 percent of the girls six months later and 22 percent of the boys and 12 percent of the girls one year later.
Currently there is no federal funding for any comprehensive sex-education program in the country, but funding for abstinence-only programs has mushroomed, increasing from $9 million in1997 to $176 million in 2007.
In the paper, however, the researchers conclude that "our findings raise serious concerns about the abstinence-only approach as a risk-reduction method for adolescent sexual behavior."
Masters added: "The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate among developing nations, and rates of sexually transmitted diseases in this country are high. The risks are real, and if people want to keep teens safe from the negative outcomes of sex, abstinence-only programs are not the way to go. More comprehensive programs that include abstinence as one choice are much more likely to have the outcomes we want that teenagers eventually will be in a positive and fulfilling sexual relationship."
She said the study was not an evaluation of abstinence-only programs, noting that others studies have shown they don't have an effect on delaying sexual activity. Part of the problem is the way abstinence is taught.
"Abstinence-only programs often only look at the negatives of sex, not the positive. This is especially important for young women who need to have control over having sex and having safe sex," Masters said. "With these programs you often hear 'sex just happens' and adolescents are having less safe sex. This detracts from adolescents having a choice, and this leads to more dangerous sex with more sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies."
|Contact: Joel Schwarz|
University of Washington