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September 21, 2004

Teen Virginity Pledges Lead to Better Life Outcomes, Study Finds

WASHINGTON, SEPT. 21, 2004 - Teens who pledge to abstain from sexual activity until marriage have better life outcomes and are far less likely to engage in risky behaviors than non-pledgers, according to a new study from The Heritage Foundation.

Domestic policy experts Robert Rector, Jennifer Marshall and Kirk Johnson reviewed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a federally funded survey that follows groups of teenagers for several years. One of the things they learned is that a virginity pledge can help keep young people safer.

In fact, teens have everything to gain and nothing to lose by taking a virginity pledge, they say, since the study indicated that such pledges appear to have a strong and significant effect in encouraging positive and constructive behavior among youth.

For example, the analysts found that pledgers are less likely to become pregnant (girls who are strong pledgers are more than 50 percent less likely to have a teen pregnancy than are non-pledgers), less likely to give birth out of wedlock and less likely to engage in unprotected sexual activity. Teens that make virginity pledges also will have fewer sexual partners and are far less likely to engage in sexual activity during high school.

Moreover, the Heritage experts note, there is no downside to signing a pledge. A teen pledger who becomes sexually active, for example, is not less likely to use contraception.

Yet, the authors write, "Teens live in a sex-saturated culture. Despite polls showing that nearly all parents want youth to be taught a strong abstinence message, abstinence education is rare in American schools."

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