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Abstinence Programs in Today's Society

Abstinence Programs in Today's Society


A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests that abstinence-only education can be effective in delaying sexual activity among sixth- and seventh-grade children." (22-42) Teenage sexual activity is a major problem confronting the nation and has led to a rising incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), emotional and psychological injuries, and out-of-wedlock childbearing. Abstinence education programs for youth have been proven to be effective in reducing early sexual activity (Koch, 2011, 65). Abstinence programs also can provide the foundation for personal responsibility and enduring marital commitment. Therefore, they are vitally important to efforts aimed at reducing out-of-wedlock childbearing among young adult women, improving child well-being, and increasing adult happiness over the long term (Finn, 2011, 32).

Washington policymakers should be aware of the consequences of early sexual activity, the undesirable contents of conventional "safe sex " education programs, and the findings of the professional literature concerning the effectiveness of genuine abstinence programs. In particular, policymakers should understand that:

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including incurable viral infections, have reached epidemic proportions. Annually, 3 million teenagers contract STDs; STDs afflict roughly one in four teens who are sexually active (Finn, 2011, 32).

Early sexual activity has multiple negative consequences for young people. Research shows that young people who become sexually active are not only vulnerable to STDs, but also likely to experience emotional and psychological injuries, subsequent marital difficulties, and involvement in other high-risk behaviors.

Conventional "safe sex" programs (sometimes erroneously called "abstinence plus" programs) place little or no emphasis on encouraging young people to abstain from early sexual activity. Instead, such programs strongly promote condom use and implicitly condone sexual activity among teens. Nearly all such programs contain material and messages that would be alarming and offensive to the overwhelming majority of parents.

Despite claims to the contrary, there are 10 scientific evaluations showing that real abstinence programs can be highly effective in reducing early sexual activity. Moreover, real abstinence education is a fairly young field; thus, the number of evaluations of abstinence programs at present is somewhat limited. In the near future, many additional evaluations that demonstrate the effectiveness of abstinence education will become available.

Consequences of Early Sexual Activity

Young people who become sexually active enter an arena of high-risk behavior that leads to physical and emotional damage. Each year, influenced by a combination of a youthful assumption of invincibility and a lack of guidance (or misguidance and misleading information), millions of teens ignore those risks and suffer the consequences.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The nation is experiencing an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases that is steadily expanding. In the 1960s, the beginning of the "sexual revolution," the dominant diseases related to sexual activity were syphilis and gonorrhea. Today, there are more than 20 widespread STDs, infecting an average of more than 15 million individuals each year. Two-thirds of all STDs occur in people who are 25 years of age or younger. Each year, 3 million teens contract an STD; overall, one-fourth of ...
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