Abstinence-only Sex Education:
Potential Developmental Effects
Milton Diamond and Hazel G. Beh
Abstract: In the United States the federal government has spent over $170 million annually to subsidize states and community organizations that provide abstinence-only sex education or abstinence until marriage sex education programs. Such an education not only stresses that abstinence until marriage is to be practiced but that any sexual activity outside of a monogamous heterosexual marriage is not only morally wrong but is the only way to prevent pregnancy or avoid developing a sexually transmitted disease. Any other method except for abstinence is said to fail. The government’s decision was based on politics rather than science. Those who argue against abstinence-only instruction and for comprehensive sex education programs claim the current programs are not only ineffective but also dangerous to the children it is supposed to help and bad for society as a whole. Comprehensive sex education has been shown to increase preventive behaviors against unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and other sex-related complications. Many professional organizations have testified against continued funding for abstinence-only programs and for comprehensive instruction. Also, the large majority of parents of junior and senior high school students believe it is important that sex education be complete and cover such topics as birth control use, prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases, and contraception use and skills. It has evolved into a political debate to define American values. This essay is a commentary on this governmental conservative policy and the negative effect it has on students’ mature development. The positive influences of comprehensive sex-education are presented.
Advocates for Youth. 2007. Time to Fund REAL Sex Education. Washington, D.C.: Advocates for Youth.
Brückner, H. & Bearman P. 2005. After the promise: the STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledge. J Adolesc Health 271: 273-277.
Commentary. 2008. States are just saying no: They’re turning down abstinence-only funding. The Register-Guard: Home (Eugene, Oregon). June 23.
Dhingra, N. 2006. Abstinence-Only Stupidity. Tom Paine. common sense. http://www.tompaine.com/print/abstinenceonly_stupidity.php. Accessed August14, 2007.
Ertelt, S. 2008. Stacked Congressional Panel Blasts Abstinence Education, Urges Cuts. LIFENEWS.com.http://www.lifenews.com/nat3887.html. Accessed August 4, 2008.
Haignere, C. S., Gold, R. & McDanel, H.J. 1999. Adolescent abstinence and condom use: Are we sure we are really teaching what is safe? Health Education & Behavior 26: 43-54.
Kirby, D. 2007. Emerging Answers 2007: Research findings on programs to reduce pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Washington, D.C.: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Klein, J. D. and the Committee on Adolescence. 2005. Adolescent Pregnancy: Current Trends and Issues. Pediatrics 116: 281-286.
Landry, D. J., Kaeser, L. & Richards, C. L. 1999. Abstinence promotion and the provision of information about contraception in public school district sexuality education policies. Family Planning Perspectives 31: 280-283.
National Public Radio. 2004. Sex Education in America, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Kennedy School of Government, Issue 5. In: SIECUS. June 2008: Abstinence Only Until Marriage Industry Launches Fundraising Campagn. http://siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Feature.showFeature&featureid=1166&parentid=478. Accessed July 7, 2008.
Nicoletti, A. 2005. The Definition of Abstinence. Journal of Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecolog y 18: 57-58.
Pardue, M. G., Rector, R. E. & Martin, S. 2004. Government spends $12 on safe sex and contraceptives for every $1 spent of abstinence. Backgrounder (The Heritage Foundation Policy Research & Analysis), No. 1718. http://www.heritage.org/Research/Abstinence/bg1718.cfm. Accessed August 5, 2008.
Sentelli, J. 2007. Scientists Tell Pelosi: No More Ab-only Funding. Reproductive Health, November 28. http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/print/5474. Accessed July 22, 2008.
SIECUS. 2008. Crisis Pregnancy Centers lose Funding Source. SIECUS electronic newsletter. . Accessed October 5, 2008.
Swenson, B. 2008a. Roundup: Americans Strongly Oppose Bush HHS Proposal. Reproductive Health, July 24. http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/print/7755. Accessed July 24, 2008.
Swenson, B. 2008b. Roundup: The Global War on Sex education. Reproductive Health, July 22. http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/print/7749. Accessed July 22, 2008.
Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Fortson, K., Quay, L., Wheeler, J., & Clark, M. 2007. Impacts of Four Title V. Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs: Final Report. Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Trenton, N.J.
Waxman, H. A. 2004. [WAXMAN Report] The Content Of Federally Funded Abstinence Only Education Programs. Minority Staff Special Investigations Div., U.S. House Of Rep.
http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20041201102153-50247.pdf. Accessed December 22, 2005.
White, L. K. 1990. Determinants of Divorce: A Review of Research in the eighties. Journal of Marriage and the Family52: 904-912.