New Sex Ed Study To Hurt Conservatives' Feelings

Illustration for article titled New Sex Ed Study To Hurt Conservatives' Feelings

For years conservative legislators have argued that abstinence-only sex education is the best policy, because if there's one thing we know about teenagers, it's that when you tell them not to do something they listen. However, today scientists have come out with information that may come as a shock (if you like to plug your ears and rock back and forth whenever someone suggests there's a teen pregnancy problem). Researchers found that states that teach kids about contraception as well as abstinence have much lower teen birth rates than those that still insist "just say no" is cornerstone of a good sex education program.


In the first study to provide large-scale evidence on the link between sex education programs and teen pregnancy rates, University of Georgia researchers looked at teen birth and pregnancy data from 48 states and compared it to local policies on sex ed. According to EurekAlert, the researchers found that the teen pregnancy rate climbed the more states emphazied abstinence in their curriculum. The results remained the same even when the researchers took socioeconomic status, education level, access to Medicaid waivers, and ethnicity into account.

Lead author Kathrin Stanger-Hall, assistant professor of plant biology and biological sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, says:

"Because correlation does not imply causation, our analysis cannot demonstrate that emphasizing abstinence causes increased teen pregnancy. However, if abstinence education reduced teen pregnancy as proponents claim, the correlation would be in the opposite direction."

The researchers found abstinence was part of the most effective sex ed programs, but only when it's taught along with lessons on using contraception and preventing STDs. Stanger-Hall suggests the study should be a wake-up call for advocates of abstinence-only education, but unfortunately, we doubt this will have any impact on them. The entire study involves too much science, and not enough puritanical fear over the possibility that someday kids will have sex.

Abstinence-Only Education Does Not Lead To Abstinent Behavior, UGA Researchers Find [EurekAlert]

Image via Lasse Kristensen/Shutterstock.



I find it particularly interesting that the research shows that an effective program incorporates abstinence in addition to education about contraception. It reminds me of when I was in high school, and my peers and I ran the gamut from doin' it all the time to doin' it once or twice "to get it over with" to not even thinking about it until marriage to interested but too afraid of STDs to experiment until college (which in retrospect is hilarious, because high school is probably the last time my social circle was mostly STD free).

The point being — abstinence is going to really resonate with a certain percentage of kids, not just the religious-types but also the germophobes and the late bloomers and the like (for the record, I'm a late bloomer). But there are also kids who are eager to have sex and need some education about it. And then there's the fact that high school is supposed to be about preparing kids for adulthood, which means even us late bloomers benefit from learning about contraception and STDs. I mean, even abstinence advocates expect people to eventually have sex, right? So what's the point of sex ed if you don't go beyond "just don't do it" and say, "but if/when you do have sex, this is some very important information you should know about avoiding unplanned pregnancy and not getting the clap."