Students who participated in sexual-abstinence education programs partially funded by the federal government were just as likely to have sex, and had the same number of sexual partners, as those who did not take part in the programs, a federally mandated report said today.
Both groups of youths—those who participated in abstinence education, and those who participated in other health education programs available in their areas—had a median age of first intercourse of 14 years and 9 months.
However, those students who participated in the abstinence programs were just as likely to use contraception as those who did not. Some critics of abstinence education programs have argued that they reduce rates of contraception usage.
The enactment of Title V, Section 510 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 significantly increased the funding and prominence of abstinence education as an approach to promote sexual abstinence and healthy teen behavior. Since fiscal year 1998, the program has allocated $50 million annually in federal funding for programs that teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for school-age children. The matching block grant program, resulted in a total of $87.5 million annually for abstinence education programs.
In the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Congress authorized a scientific evaluation of the
Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Program.
The report presents final results from a multi-year, experimentally-based impact study focused on four selected abstinence education programs: (1) My Choice, My Future! in Powhatan, Virginia; (2) ReCapturing the Vision in Miami, Florida; (3) Families United to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (FUPTP) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and (4) Teens in Control in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Based on follow-up data collected from youth four to six years after study enrollment, the report presents the estimated program impacts on youth behavior, including sexual abstinence, risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other related outcomes.
Findings indicate that youth in the program group were no more likely than control group youth to have abstained from sex and, among those who reported having had sex, they had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same mean age. Contrary to concerns raised by some critics of the Title V, Section 510 abstinence funding, however, program group youth were no more likely to have engaged in unprotected sex than control group youth.