Abstinence-only classes delayed sex for black sixth and seventh graders, concludes a new study. Previous research has found no effects for abstinence education and the Obama administration plans to defund current abstinence education programs.
“This is a rigorous study that means we can now say that it’s possible for an abstinence-only intervention to be effective,” Dr. John B. Jemmott III, the University of Pennsylvania professor who led the study, said Tuesday, hours after results of the study were released. “That’s important, because for some populations, abstinence is the only acceptable message.”
Roughly a third of the students who participated in a weekend abstinence-only class started having sex in the next two years, compared with half who were randomly assigned instead to classes teaching safer sex or general health information. For those who got the gold standard of sex education — comprehensive instruction on both abstinence and safer sex — about 42 percent began having sex in the following two years.
“None of the curricula had any effect on the prevalence of unprotected sexual intercourse or consistent condom use,” an editorial in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine added.
The abstinence program did not take a moralistic tone or tell children not to have sex before marriage. It did not disparage condom use.
Instead, it involved assignments to help sixth- and seventh graders see the drawbacks to sexual activity at their age, including having them list the pros and cons themselves. Their “cons” far outnumbered the “pros.”
“The message was not mixed with any other messages,” said Jemmott.