Saturday, April 14, 2007

Embraced by parents, yet abstinence education gets little notice (BC Courier Times, 5/22/07)


Personally, I have never met a parent who believed that it would be good for their teen (or pre-teen!) to become sexually active. While some parents fear that abstinence education could paradoxically put their child at greater risk for pregnancy or an STD, I’d gladly wager that upwards of 99% of parents would embrace the eight components of abstinence education:
“A. Have as its exclusive purpose teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity
B. Teach abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children
C. Teach that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems
D. Teach that a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of sexual activity
E. Teach that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects
F. Teach that bearing children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society
G. Teach young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances
H. Teach the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity”
(See <>.)

Mathematica Policy Research just issued a 164 page report on several programs, which work with pre-high-school youth: “Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs” <>. While Mathematica did not find these particular programs to have a measurable impact in promoting abstinence, it did cite programmatic shortcomings:
These programs are not addressing older youth: “the findings provide no information on the effects programs might have if they were implemented for high school youth or began at earlier ages but continued to serve youth through high school.”
These programs are not ensuring that participants will have peer support in their high school years: “promoting support for abstinence among peer networks should be an important feature of future abstinence programs.”

It is noteworthy that Mathematica did directly address the aforementioned, possible parental misgivings about abstinence education:
“Contrary to concerns raised by some critics of the Title V, Section 510 abstinence funding,…program group youth were no more likely to have engaged in unprotected sex”
“Some policymakers and health educators have questioned whether the Title V, Section 510 programs focus on abstinence elevates these STD risks. Findings from this study suggest that this is not the case”

On 4/14/07, the Courier Times gave this scholarly manuscript one paragraph coverage, under the heading “Study: Abstinence Programs Not Working.” The Courier Times’ bias, as well the failure of its staff to actually read the Mathematica report, is blatantly obvious.

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