Sex Education And Teen Pregnancy Rates
August 27, 2012

Sex Education Does Little To Lower Teen Pregnancy Rates In The UK

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Sex education has had little to no effect on teen pregnancy rates, which have remained essentially unchanged over the past four decades, claims the author of a controversial new study.

According to Sarah Harris of the Daily Mail, professor David Paton, chair of industrial economics at The University of Nottingham, has said that despite schools' attempts to educate students under the age of 16 about sex, annual pregnancy rates from 1969 to 2009 have remained "almost exactly the same."

While the rate has seen peaks and valleys over that time, rising and/or falling to between seven to 10 per 1,000 girls each year, Paton said that it tends not to correlate with UK efforts to prevent such occurrences, Telegraph Medical Correspondent Stephen Adams added.

It surpassed nine per 1,000 on three occasions (once in the mid-1970s, once in the early 1990s, and once in 1996) but has been on a general decline since then, the professor argued.

Writing in the journal Education and Health, Paton said that it is "very difficult to establish a strong case that standard policy interventions have been at the root of such changes," according to Harris.

To illustrate his point, Paton explained that the all-time highest teen pregnancy rate was reached in 1996, just four years after the introduction of the Health of the Nation initiative that made contraception and information more readily available to young women.

"Implicit (and sometimes explicit) in these approaches has been an assumption that access to family planning will reduce pregnancy rates amongst those teenagers who were already having sex but will not cause an increase in the proportion of all teenagers who engage in sexual activity," he wrote, according to the Daily Mail.

"Standard economic models, however, suggest that the two factors are irretrievably interlinked. Easier access to family planning reduces the effective cost of sexual activity and will make it more likely (at least for some teenagers) that they will engage in underage sexual activity," he added. "In conclusion, despite recent decreases in the overall underage conception rate, unwanted pregnancy amongst minors in England and Wales has proved remarkedly resilient to policy initiatives implemented by different Governments over the past 40 years."

"Family planning groups strongly dispute his findings, arguing that the evidence actually shows initiatives do work if given time," Adams countered. "Drops since 2009 mean the rate is now the lowest since the end of the 60s, and they say credit should be given to governments that have adopted a more liberal approach“¦ Brook, the sexual health charity, said the under 16 pregnancy rate in 2010 was the lowest since 1969, at 7.0 per 1,000."