September 16, 2010

Two-thirds Of US Teens Taught Birth Control In High School

Virtually every adolescent in the United States has had at least some formal sex education, although only two-thirds have received instruction on birth control, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.

The report also found a rise in teenage births, following years of steady decline. The U.S. teen birth rate had risen from 2005 to 2007, before falling again in 2008 to roughly 10 percent of total U.S. births, the CDC said.

The CDC study was based on data from the 2006"“2008 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), which involved personal, in-home interviews with some 2,800 teenagers.

About 97 percent of the participants said they had received some formal sex education by the time they were 18.   For the purposes of the report, formal sex education was defined as instruction at a school, church or other setting in which students were taught about sexually transmitted infections, how to say no to sex or about birth control.

Lessons about saying no and STDs were more common than instruction on proper use of a condom or other birth control methods, the study found.

In total, roughly two-thirds of U.S. adolescents -- 62 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls -- received instruction about birth control during high school.

However, 92 percent of boys and girls said they had been taught about STDs, with nearly that amount having learned about AIDS prevention. About 87 percent of girls and 81 percent of boys were given instruction on how to say no to sex, the study found.

Younger adolescent girls were more likely than boys to have discussed the subject of sex and birth control with their parents, the CDC said.

Although the report did not examine possible trends in sex education, many of the findings were similar to previous CDC research in 2002.

Other studies suggested a decline in sex education between 1995 and 2002, a finding inconsistent with the current report, which indicates there has not been any significant changes, Columbia University professor John Santelli told the Associated Press.

Initiatives by the federal government emphasizing abstinence-only programs were a substantial part of the initial decline, Santelli said.  These programs stressed the threat of STDs, but were light on birth control instruction. 

Those policies were still in place when the CDC study was conducted, Santelli added.

However, over the past two years the majority of federal sex education funding has been redirected to programs that teach both birth control and the importance of postponing sex, said Bill Albert, chief program officer for National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, during an interview with The Associated Press.

A previous CDC study earlier this year found that birth control use among U.S. teens had remained nearly constant since 2002. 

The CDC's full report, entitled "Educating Teenagers About Sex in the United States", can be viewed at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db44.pdf.