September 18, 2008

Researchers Pan Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

Abstinence-until-marriage sex education programs fail to change sexual behavior in teens and provide inaccurate condom information, U.S. researchers say.

Studies published in a special issue of the online journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy, edited by Dr. John S. Santelli of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, determined that abstinence-only programs contain medical inaccuracies, fail to help young people change behavior and conflict with ethical standards. Abstinence-only programs violate young people's right to accurate information -- and also teachers' and health educators' rights to answer questions and provide medically accurate information, the journal says.

"Abstinence-only programs have a broad variety of problems with accuracy, efficacy and ethics," Santelli said in a statement. "These studies clearly demonstrate that federal promotion of abstinence has failed in its primary goal of helping young people delay initiation of sex, and actually, withholds life-saving information from young people."

In one study, Douglas Kirby assessed the impact of 56 programs on adolescent sexual behavior, comparing abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education programs. He found that most abstinence programs did not delay initiation of sex and only 3 of 9 had any significant positive effects on any sexual behavior.