Thursday, January 1, 2009

Abstinence pledge no guarantee to avoid premarital sex

abstinence, premarital sex

Controversial new research by Janet Rosenbaum suggests that teenagers in the United States who pledge to abstain from premarital sex until marriage are just as likely to have sex as those who do not promise abstinence.

The new analysis of data from a large US survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "abstinence pledge".

The comments by Ryan T. Anderson passes doubt as to the motives of this study. Anderson claims that the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have teamed up in an aggressive campaign over the past several years to pressure states to eliminate abstinence education and to reject federal funding for these programs. A year ago, only four states refused federal abstinence-education funding. Today the number is seventeen. The goal is to get enough states to refuse the federal abstinence-education funding to the point where the ACLU and Planned Parenthood can convince Congress to eliminate such funding entirely.

"Taking an abstinence pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behaviour," said Janet Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking." Condom use was about 10 percentage points lower for people who broke the pledge. They were six points less likely to use any contraception.

According to Wilcox in A Scientific Review of Abstinence and Abstinence Programs, Such teenage abstinence pledges are often not kept, as indicated by Rosenbaum but they nonetheless have real benefits. “While it is true that most adolescents who take a pledge to remain abstinent ultimately end up having premarital sex, such abstinence pledges do have real value,” Wilcox notes

“Pledgers have fewer sexual partners, they are more likely to abstain from sex before marriage, and they have markedly lower levels of non-marital pregnancy, compared to adolescents who do not take the pledge.”

This new study by Rosenbaum appears to contradict earlier research into the topic. Bearman and Bruckner claim that numerous abstinence-based programs that do not include education about contraceptives have proven to be the most successful in reducing teen sexual behaviour. More than a dozen programs in place throughout Canada and the United States show a statistically significant reduction in teen sexual activity. According to the authors of the study which was based on a sample of more than 5,000 students, taking an abstinence pledge reduces by one-third the probability that an adolescent will begin sexual activity compared with other adolescents of the same gender, age and race. When taking an abstinence pledge and is combined with strong parental disapproval of sexual activity, the probability of initiation of premarital sexual activity is reduced by 75 percent or more.(1)

Combating the all too prevalent view that contraception helps in reducing our epidemic levels of teen pregnancy and abortion is one of the first big steps to healing our culture. It is clear that educating about contraceptives under the “but they are going to do it anyway” argument substantially undermines the resolve of teens to not have sex, and compromises teachers, parents and other guardians who ought to be unwavering in their admonition against premarital sex.

Wilcox notes in A Scientific Review of Abstinence and Abstinence Programs, that programs such as True Love Waits have “increased rates of sexual abstinence among adolescents, and they have also reduced the onset of premarital sex, the number of sexual partners, and sexual infidelity among adolescents.” There is also evidence that these programs have “played an important role in driving down the teenage pregnancy rate in the last decade or so.”

Another study by Focus on the Family Medical Issues Analyst Reginald Finger, M.D., M.P.H., claims that remaining a virgin through adolescence brings a host of positive effects. "Adolescent virginity has a significant impact on well-being in middle adulthood," Finger said. "We found that men and women who were virgins at age 18, when evaluated approximately 20 years later, had about half the risk of divorce, had completed about an additional year of education and had annual incomes nearly 20 percent higher than those who were not virgins at 18.

With Rosenbaum claiming that abstinence education does not work, fears grow that Aides will threaten the lives of promiscuous teenagers. In Africa, the rate of HIV transmission has increased dramatically as more and more condoms are distributed by the mostly UN funded organizations. Two decades of pornographic sex education and massive shipments of condoms have sent millions of young Africans to an early death. source

In 2004 it was reported by a group of Cambridge University researchers that Uganda has decreased its rate of AIDS by as much as 75% . The researchers also highlighted the contribution of government sponsored information campaigns that emphasize faithfulness to one partner and discourage sexual "grazing". "You do not need sex at your age. Wait until you are married. You can choose to fight AIDS by saying no and be able to stay alive." said Uganda's First Lady.

Abstinence education has thus far been the only program in Africa that has significantly reduced the rate of HIV/AIDS. The National Post reports that abstinence-only education works best to reduce sexual activity in teens and therefore the rate of sexually transmitted disease.

In addition, despite the theories of AIDS activists, the University of Pennsylvania study's authors found that abstinence-only education also did not seem to affect the rates at which sexually active teenagers use condoms. This contradicts Rosenbaum who claims that people who make a pledge and break it are less likely to use condoms.

Is there an effort by Planned Parenthood to remove funding for abstinence education and is Janet Rosenbaum's study conveniently arranged to provide evidence to support this move?

1 Peter S. Bearman and Hanna Bruckner, "Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse," American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 106, No. 4 (January 2001), pp. 861, 862. The effects of a virginity pledge were shown to be statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level.

Links to similar articles
JHU Study Claims Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Other Research Disagrees
Religion and Morality "Virginity Pledges"
Like A Virgin: The Press Takes On Teenage Sex



Pearl said...

Of course a pledge of abstinence will be more likely to result in abstinence than no pledge! Of course. I absolutely disagree with findings otherwise. While it is true that our teenagers are being fed a television diet of unmarried, promiscuous sex, I do not think that any of that could remove the sense of obligation an abstinence pledge instills in a pledge participant. And think about this....After engaging in premarital sex, what do you think would be the comparison between the mental attitude of a teenager who made such a pledge and one who didn't? Remorse. The agenda seems to be to remove remorse and guilt associated with promiscuity and premarital sex. It is wrong. It should always be presented as wrong. To remove any safeguards against it (ie abstinence pledges) is to lend it approval by omission. Thanks for this post. Your writings are always so informative.

Secular Heretic said...

I agree with what you are saying here Pearl. Making the pledge is better than nothing at all, at least some will avoid this risky behaviour.

As you said there is a push to enable people to have premarital sex and not feel any guilt afterwards.

Liberty Belle said...

To me, this is like saying I'm on a diet and then eating the cake anyway. I get kudos for trying to be healthy, but also the yum of the cake.

They can't have it both ways. It isn't healthy for the soul.

John Jansen said...

Also apropos to this post, and to previous comments, is this little bit of video from a congressional hearing on abstinence education last year.

(Btw, Secular Heretic, thanks for your recent comments on the Generations for Life blog!)

Secular Heretic said...

Thanks for posting the short video, nice and short and to the point. It would be interesting to find out why some voted no to the funding.

Thanks John Jensen I've added you to my blog role, I thought you were there but you were in my reader.

John Jansen said...

Also worth reading is this analysis of the study by William McGurn.

Secular Heretic said...

Thanks John
I'll add the link to the post.