Adolescents who took abstinence-only sex education classes were more likely to delay having sex, a new study shows.
the study, some 662 black 6th- and 7th-grade students, ranging in age
from 10 to 15 with an average age of 12, participated in classes held
on Saturdays at four Philadelphia public schools that draw from
primarily lower-income neighborhoods.
Students either took eight hours of abstinence-only classes; eight hours of safe sex-only classes that included information about sexually transmitted diseases and the importance of using condoms if sexually active; or an eight- or 12-hour comprehensive course that covered both abstinence and safer sex.
Another group of students were enrolled in eight hours of a general health class that did not discuss matters related to sexual behavior. That group served as a control for comparison.
Two years after the courses began, with 84.4 percent of the students still enrolled in the program, students in the abstinence-only class were 33 percent less likely to have had sexual intercourse than the controls.
The other intervention groups did not show statistically significant differences from the control group, according to the study.
The authors also stressed their study should not be read as an endorsement of all abstinence-only education. While facilitators encouraged delaying sex until some point in the future, they did not take a moralistic tone, portray sex negatively, use stereotypical depictions of men and women, or specifically tell students to wait until marriage.
One of the fears about abstinence-only education is that teens would be less likely to use condoms once they started having sex. Researchers found no such connection in this study. Students in the abstinence group and students in the control group who went on to have sex were equally likely to have used condoms.
The study is published in the February issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.