Friday, December 15, 2006

The Failure of Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs - Indira Nsiah Nketiah

In America today, Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs are being offered all through public school systems in hopes of encouraging youth to abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage. These programs are government funded interventions that aims to reduce the number of youth engaging in sexual acts. Unfortunately these programs have received harsh criticism from the public and research has proven that they are ineffective and a misuse of government tax dollars. The Society for Adolescent Medicine has currently rejected the administration policy that promotes abstinence as the only sexual health prevention strategy for young people publishing a report that stated:“… federal abstinence-only-until-marriage policy is ethically problematic, as it excludes accurate information about contraception, misinforms by overemphasizing or misstating the risks of contraception, and fails to require the use of scientifically accurate information while promoting approaches of questionable value…. Abstinence-only programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life.” (1) An MSNBC news contributor, Arthur Caplan, PhD stated that “There may be a sillier strategy for dealing with sex among teens than promoting the choice of "abstinence-only-until-marriage," but I am not quite sure what it is.” He also goes on to explain in his article that such approaches designed for youth contradict what medicine and science proves about teens and sex. (2) If ineffective, why have these programs been created, and why are government officials and administration, with the assistance of the education board and school systems, promoting this ineffective strategy?

Sex among teens is more common in America today than ever before with the excessive exposure of sexual contents on TV screens, radios and magazines. Sex is no longer the private act between married couples but now an acceptable societal behavior. Society has acknowledged sex before marriage and has viewed it as acceptable. The young people are exposed to sex at early stages of life and are therefore engaging in sexual behaviors before they hit maturity and also sooner than marriage. The youth are at a curiosity period in their years and want to experience a range of things. Since sex is publicized everywhere, they are almost forced into this lifestyle. The values and importance of sexual behaviors have been lost and some educators along with Congress are hoping to re-establish its purpose by designing programs to educate the youth and aid in the prevention of sexual activities before marriage.

Abstinence-Only sex education is defined as an educational or motivational program which teaches the social, psychological, and health gains which comes as a result of abstaining from sexual activity. (3) It also teaches that abstinence is the only certain way to avoid out of wedlock pregnancy, STDs, and other health related problems and those children born outside of wedlock will have harmful upbringing for the child, the parents and the society. (3) It further explains that sexual activities outside marriage are likely to create harmful psychological and physical side effects. The program also teaches teenagers how to reject sexual advances and also how the usage of drugs and alcohol can increase chances of engaging in sexual activities. (3) The program is heavily dedicated to abstinence only as the only safe way and does not include education of contraception or condom use unless they are condemning its failures and limitations. (4) This is harmful because when teenagers decide to engage in sexual activity, there may not be aware of the precautions such as protection and contraception. But there are diverse groups of Abstinence-Only programs. Some may educate on abstinence and contraception which others are strictly on no-sex-before-marriage agenda.

Abstinence Only Sex Education programs have failed to reduce the number of teens engaging in sexual behaviors because they are based on the Health Belief Model. These programs do not also take into relation other factors such as peer and cultural social norms and have mistakenly relied on the usage of the normative-reeducation approach to encouraging abstinence without educating the youth on sexual safety. The designed program is very constricted and uses forceful tactics in its educational practices. Three main arguments supporting this criticism are; lack of support from researchers and activists, failure to mention other safer sex practices, and the contradiction of what science and medicine explains about teen sex.

The Health Belief Model is used to make judgments on costs and benefits on an issue which is in turn used to adapt an intervention that goes on to be the perceived behavior. The behavior in which public health officials hoped is abstinence and looked at perceived severity, harm, benefits and barriers that possibly will cause the need for this program. The supposed severity and harm of sexual intercourse were pregnancy, testing positive for HIV/AIDS, contracting Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and having emotional crashes such as suicide. Teenagers are seen as rational decision-makers who would weigh different options regarding sexual behavior, when presented with the information about harms of sexual intercourse. The program’s innovators hoped that once they provide the youth with the information, they will think twice about perhaps the benefits of sexual intercourse and rationally choose to abstain. They hoped this program will help and not constrain when it comes to making choices about sex. This strategy does not take into account the psychology of the teenager. It does not consider if the teenager may end up being rebellious towards this program, or have social norms that may prohibit them from benefiting from the program.

These programs should have considered the Social Learning Theory which looks at the health outcome expectancies along with self efficacy to make judgments on a behavior. This theory would have allowed the public health officials to reason if they believed teenagers participating in the programs would portray the expected health outcome. They should have thought if the teenagers would be able to do this behavior without any temptation. Using this theory, they would have understood that self efficacy plays a major role and that many youth receiving this course may believe that they cannot perform the behavior and this would influence whether they can actually accomplish it. Many of the teens may have already engaged in sexual intercourse and therefore believed they could not become abstinent. It could also be that some of the kids were products of teen pregnancy and may see it as ok for them to also engage in sex at such young ages as well. Also it has been shown that when teens reach a certain age, parents end up explaining to them that it is ok for them to engage in sexual activities as long as they use protection. All these point to why the program is not as successful as government and some organizations would have anticipated.

One argument why this program has failed is the lack of support from researchers and activists. There have been numerous research and studies that has surveyed adolescents participating in the program and some of the results have shown the ineffectiveness of the intervention. In Texas for instance, the program has had little impact on the behaviors of the teenagers according to an ongoing study developed by the Texas Department of Health. (5) The Health Department examined five abstinence only programs at 24 schools and presented to the students a questionnaire on their sexual behavior. The results of the study showed there was little or no change in sexual behaviors among students participating in the program and may have possibly helped increase the number of youth engaging in pre marital sex. There was no result that showed strong evidence of the usefulness of the program. This is just one example of research done to prove the ineffectiveness of these abstinence-only programs. There have been several other studies that have confirmed that there are many other reasons that cause the increasing numbers in teenage pregnancy and spread of diseases and that the program should cover all foundation and not concentrate heavily on abstinence as the only gain. Researchers worry about the over funding these programs receive from the federal government and the lack of thorough research funding to effectively conduct efficient studies.

Organizations such as The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all support comprehensive sex education programs that encourage abstinence while also providing adolescents with information on how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases. (6) This leads into another reason for the failure of this program. Researchers are also afraid of the lack of science and medicine in the education of the programs may cause for the flop of the intervention. Some of the programs are giving false information on sexual safety. The educational curriculum may not include the teaching on the use of condoms and contraception which helps prevent unwanted pregnancy and diseases. They are not teaching responsible sexual behaviors which could have benefited in positive results such as delayed initiation of sex, reduction in frequency of sex, and an increase in the usage of contraceptives.

According to reports shown, the United States has among one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in a developed region and also has the fastest growing cases of HIV among the youth in a demographic group (7). With this known, just educating on abstention will not result in the lowering of these numbers. It will require the teaching of proper sexual education which should include the use of contraception and condoms which the abstinence only program lacks. They believe in no sex before marriage as the only acceptable measure. These programs then lie to the teenagers and tell them outrageous stories such as HIV can be spread via sweat and tears, condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time especially in heterosexual intercourse, abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, half gay male teenagers in the US have tested positive for AIDS, and the last but not least false, misleading, and distorted information in the program’s teaching material is that touching a person's genitals can result in pregnancy.(8) This information given to the teenagers are faulty and gives wrong educational information to young adults. This makes the program ineffective because false information is ground for more danger because once a kid engages in sexual intercourse, after going through the program, could have unprotected sex which could cause pregnancy, diseases, or emotional damage.

In conclusion, Abstinence-Only programs need to be revised in order to properly educate the youth on safer sex practice. They can teach and promote abstinence since it is the safest way to prevent pregnancy and diseases but failure to mention other safer sexual habits only harms the teenagers than benefits them. The program has to include truthful facts about teenage sex and run several other researches before teaching the programs to the youth communities. There are other options such as Comprehensive sexual education programs that have shown that their programs show there is a delay in sexual activity and an increase in the likelihood of using contraceptives when individuals become sexually active(9). These are better ways to reducing the number of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases in America in addition to the practice of abstinence.

1. Advocate for Youth; "Effective Sex Education", accessed November 25th 2006
2. Caplan, Arthur Ph.D., 'Abstinence-only sex Ed defies common sense', accessed November 25th 2006
3. Advocate for Youth; 'Point Definition of Abstinence-Only Education as Defined by Section 510(b) of Title V of the Social Security Act, P.L. 104-193' Accessed December 1st 2006
4. Crystal Phend, Aangus, Zalman MD. 'Abstinence-Only Sex Education not Good Enough' University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
5. Medical News Today, Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs Have Little Effect on Texas Teenagers' Behavior, Study Says, Accessed December 2nd 2006
6. Welfare Reform: A Review of Abstinence Education and Transitional Medical Assistance, April 23, 2002: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Health, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, 107th Congress, 2002, testimony of David W. Kaplan, MD.
7. Planned Parenthood; Sex & Censorship Committee, National Coalition Against Censorship, Published by the Katharine Dexter McCormick Library
8. Ceci Connolly, Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says,
9. Sierra Club; Global Population and Environment. accessed December 10th 2006


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading your posts.

Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects?
Thanks a ton!

Feel free to visit my website; Continuing

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious which blogging and site-building platform you're running?
I'm new to operating a blog and have been thinking about using the Quizilla platform. Do you think this is a good platform to start with? I would be really grateful if I could ask you some questions through e-mail so I can learn a bit more prior to getting started. When you have some free time, please get in touch with me at: Many thanks

My site :: link building firm

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic website you have here but I was curious about
if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics talked about
in this article? I'd really like to be a part of community where I can get responses from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Cheers!

my weblog; Suggested Reading

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello there I am so grateful I found your web site,
I really found you by accident, while I was browsing
on Aol for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to
say kudos for a remarkable post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at the
minute but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time
I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the excellent work.

Here is my webpage: auto insurance companies in florida

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?

There's a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Cheers

My page; Read More Listed here

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whats up this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG
editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

My web-site; Read the Full Article

2:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! I've been reading your weblog for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the fantastic job!

Also visit my homepage :: Find Out More

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there outstanding website! Does running a blog such as
this take a large amount of work? I have no understanding of programming however I was hoping to start my own blog in the near future.

Anyway, if you have any ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share.
I know this is off subject however I simply needed to ask.
Thank you!

my web blog ... Suggested Internet site

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with SEO?
I'm trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I'm not seeing very good gains.
If you know of any please share. Appreciate it!

my web page; Learn Alot more Here

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find many of your post's to be what precisely I'm looking for.
Do you offer guest writers to write content for you?
I wouldn't mind publishing a post or elaborating on most of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome weblog!

Feel free to visit my homepage ... relevant webpage

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woah! I'm really loving the template/theme of this site. It's simple, yet effective.
A lot of times it's very hard to get that "perfect balance" between superb usability and visual appearance. I must say you have done a fantastic job with this. Also, the blog loads extremely fast for me on Chrome. Outstanding Blog!

my web site; useful source

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage?
My blog site is in the exact same niche as yours and my visitors would truly benefit from a lot of
the information you provide here. Please let
me know if this ok with you. Thanks a lot!

Have a look at my website - state auto insurance companies

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya! It looks as though we both have a passion for the same thing.
Your blog, "Blogger: Challenging Dogma" and mine are
very similar. Have you ever thought of writing a guest write-up for a similar blog?
It will surely help gain exposure to your blog
(my site recieves a lot of visitors). If you
are interested, contact me at: nickolastisdale@live.
de. Thanks for your time

Here is my web site; similar web-site

4:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up
and let you know a few of the images aren't loading correctly. I'm not sure why but I think its a
linking issue. I've tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.

Take a look at my blog post - Visit This Link

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to check it
out. I'm definitely enjoying the information. I'm bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my
followers! Terrific blog and superb style and

My web blog best link building service

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues? A small number of my blog visitors have complained about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera. Do you have any solutions to help fix this problem?

Here is my web blog: visit the up coming website - -

3:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings! Quick question that's completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My weblog looks weird when viewing from my iphone. I'm trying to find a theme or plugin that might be
able to fix this problem. If you have any suggestions, please
share. Cheers!

my website; Get the facts ()

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! This is the third time visiting now and I really just wanted
to say I truley get pleasure from reading through your weblog.
I've decided to bookmark it at with your title: Blogger: Challenging Dogma and your Domain name: I hope this is okay with you, I'm making an attempt to give
your terrific blog a bit more visibility. Be back shortly.

my web site important source

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I just discovered your web site: Blogger: Challenging Dogma when I was surfing around delicious.
com. It looks as though someone loved your
site so much they decided to bookmark it. I'll absolutely be coming back here more often.

Review my page: just click the following webpage

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

I've been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thank you

my website :: Click That Link

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
There's a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thank you

my homepage :: auto insurance san diego

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This paragraph is really a fastidious one it assists new web
viewers, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

My web site :: just click the next post

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have gone ahead and included a backlink back to your
blog from one of my clientele requesting it. We have used your web site URL: http://www. and blog title: Blogger:
Challenging Dogma to be certain you get the proper anchor
text. If you woud like to check out where your link has been placed, please contact me at: Thanks a lot

Feel free to surf to my weblog ... Read More In this article **

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does your website have a contact page? I'm having trouble locating it but, I'd like to shoot you an
email. I've got some suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it grow over time.

Feel free to surf to my website: contextual link building

1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
Plz answer back as I'm looking to create my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. appreciate it

Have a look at my blog :: what is link building services

1:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have loaded your site in 4 different browsers and I must say this website loads a lot quicker then most.
Would you mind emailing me the name of your website hosting company?
My personal e-mail is: kandydeane@gawab.
com. I'll even sign up through your affiliate link if you would like. Thanks a lot

Also visit my page Learn Alot more Here

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading?

I'm trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

My blog post; how to get back links :: :

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right now it appears like Movable Type is the top blogging platform available right
now. (from what I've read) Is that what you're using on your blog?

my blog post - auto insurance terms ()

7:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home