Abstinence-only sex education doesn't work, UGA researchers say

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ATHENS, Ga. -- When it comes to reducing teen pregnancy and birth rates, abstinence-only sex education just doesn’t work, according to University of Georgia researchers.

States that mandate abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states that have more comprehensive programs that also teach other ways to prevent pregnancy, according to Kathrin Stanger-Hall and David Hall.

“This clearly shows that prescribed abstinence-only education in public schools does not lead to abstinent behavior. It may even contribute to the high teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries,” said David Hall, a genetics professor in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and Stanger-Hall’s husband.

The researchers also looked at the influence of other factors on teen pregnancy, such as socioeconomic status, education level, access to Medicaid waivers and ethnicity.

Those factors can influence teen pregnancy rates, but the researchers still found that the more abstinence is emphasized in a state’s official sex education programs, the higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates are.

The states with the lowest teen pregnancy rates were those that prescribed comprehensive sex and/or HIV education, covering not only abstinence, but also proper contraception and condom use, said Stanger-Hall, a professor of plant biology and biological sciences in the Franklin College.

The researchers used pregnancy data from 2005, the most recent year available, she said.

The researchers’ work was published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

The federal government funds more than one type of sex education program, including abstinence-only and more comprehensive approaches; states can choose between them, Stanger-Hall said.

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stillamazed 11/30/11 - 09:16 am
This certainly comes as no

This certainly comes as no surprise to me. Today's youth is bombarded with sex everywhere they turn, from magazine ads and billboards, to TV commercials, music videos and movies. Why does anyone expect that they will abstain from sex when it is in their faces all the time? Hollywood glorifies it, even teen movies have sex scenes in them and the schools and parents can talk about it until they are blue in the face, but the truth is that outside influences are what most of them are going to listen to.

Black Mamba
Black Mamba 11/30/11 - 01:25 pm
Stillamazed, Your views are


Your views are warped and the world left them behind in the 1950s.

I'm a thirty-year veteran middle school science teacher. For quite a few of those years I was the one responsible for teaching about human reproduction. I've heard just about every question any twelve year old could think of. I have a message for parents. You may think that a sex education program would teach your child things that violate your moral beliefs or teach them things you would rather they not know. But I can guarantee you that even the most innocent of your children know things that would horrify you and that they will not tell you what they have learned while you continue to pretend that they are naive and innocent. If you oppose the formal age appropriate sex education programs designed by adults, you are opting instead for your child to get instruction from other children. You do not control what they hear. And believe me, they are hearing plenty, and most of what they hear is wrong. Somebody has to teach them accurate information. If you haven't done that, who do you want to do it? Do you think your child would ask you if oral sex can result in pregnancy? They wonder about that. Would they ask you if it's true that they can't get pregnant the first time they have sex? Many believe that to be true. Would they ask you if penetration is necessary for pregnancy to occur? They asked me. And they have asked me a lot more questions that might make you pretty uncomfortable. Don't expect that your silence teaches anything. Either teach them yourself or let a professional educator do that. Don't wait for your daughter's boyfriend to do the teaching, or your son's best friend to explain what your son wants to know.

floridasun 11/30/11 - 02:52 pm
Teens are going to have

Teens are going to have sex...no matter how much people in the Bible belt think abstinence programs are going to work.Teens need to be taught about the risks of pregnancy, STD's, HIV etc.
I have never understood what the problem is teaching high school students these topics in a health or science class

faithson 11/30/11 - 04:04 pm
Education has always been the

Education has always been the arbiter of better decision making. A real education into the 'consequences' of childhood pregnancy and provisions to prevent pregnancy have always been the answer, no matter what the old wives tales suggest. Same old problem, Science versus Church. I live in the real world where science and facts are used to facilitate good decisions, not 400 year old theologians.

corgimom 11/30/11 - 05:51 pm
It NEVER has worked. There

It NEVER has worked. There were lots and lots of illegitimate children back in "the good ol' days" where the mythical people all waited until marriage to have sex.

It happened in Biblical times, it happens today.

My father was one of those nutcases that was against children having sex education classes in school because "it would give them ideas". Of course, my mother's soap operas didn't ever make me wonder about anything, or reading Dear Abby and Ann Landers in the newspapers, or movies, or music, or hearing what all the kids talked about at school.

And all of us growing up knew EXACTLY who was doing what with whom in high school-but hey, don't teach children the truth! Let them learn every rumor, myth, and superstition by people just as ignorant as they are- that's by FAR the best way, right?

The ones who don't want it taught in schools are the same ones that foolishly bury their heads in the sand about teenagers and their sexuality, because they don't ever want to think that their children could ever have sexual feelings. They want to think of their teenage, soon-to-be-adults as small children, and that's just not reality. They can't face it, so they ignore it- and then go ballistic when they find out their children are having sex. They know that their children lie, cheat, and steal, despite their best teachings, but they blindly assume that their children won't have premarital sex because the parents told them not to, once or twice.

Makes you wonder how some people think.

Vito45 11/30/11 - 06:38 pm
I guess I'm too moderate, but

I guess I'm too moderate, but that is often where logic takes you when you think about issues pragmatically.

I've never understood why there can't be age appropriate sex education, starting out with simple biology and as a child gets older and begins to get interested in sex, some education in the psychology and physiology of what is happening to them. At the same time, educate them on the hazards of sex , the fact that having children at a young age robs you of some of the best years of your life etc. Just teach BOTH.

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