April 13, 2007

April 13, 2007 | News Releases on Education

Heritage Foundation Expert Responds to Flawed Abstinence Study

WASHINGTON, APRIL 13, 2007-Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an evaluation study by Mathematica Inc. that attempted to measure the effect of four abstinence education programs. Robert Rector, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, issued the following critique of the report.

"Regrettably, the study shows that the four programs were not successful in reducing teen sexual activity."


"These results are not surprising given the characteristics of the programs examined. Many of the programs were in a stage of early development when the evaluation occurred. Those in the programs were quite young (ages 10 to 13) and there was no abstinence follow-up after the initial program experience. Sexual behavior outcomes were measured, on average, five years after the programs were completed, with no abstinence support being given in the intervening years. The main lesson that should be taken from this study is that interventions at a very early age require significant follow-up, or they'll be less likely to alter teen risk behaviors."


"Fortunately, there are 15 other studies (most appearing in peer-reviewed journals) showing that abstinence programs are effective in reducing youth sexual activity. Abstinence education programs send a strong message, encouraging youth to abstain from sexual activity at least through high school. Abstinence education also teaches that sexual activity should involve love, intimacy and commitment, and that these qualities are most likely to be found in marriage. More than 90 percent of parents want youth taught these positives messages."


"By contrast, comprehensive sex education or abstinence plus programs do not encourage youth to delay sexual activity. Instead, these programs pervasively teach that it is OK for teens to be sexually active as long as they use condoms. Virtually no parents approve of this message. The debate about sex education is a debate about fundamental values, although the comprehensive sex education lobby obscures this fact."


"Abstinence education programs are one of the few small voices in our society opposing the tidal wave of sexual promiscuity promoted to youth through media and popular culture. Unfortunately, it is likely there will be a strong effort in this Congress to eliminate abstinence education and replace it with comprehensive "safe sex" programs that scoff at abstinence while accepting and condoning casual teen sexual activity. Ending abstinence education would be a great disservice to America's youth."


Rector is a leading authority on poverty and the U.S. welfare system, and he has conducted extensive research on the economic costs of welfare and its role in undermining families.

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