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Texas teens had more sex after abstinence programs (14996)

14996Health News2005-02-02

Texas teens had more sex after abstinence programs

Abstinence-only sex education programs, a major plank in President Bush's education plan, have had no impact on teenagers' behavior in his home state of Texas, according to a new study. Despite taking courses emphasizing abstinence-only themes, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active, mirroring the overall state trends, according to the study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University. "We didn't see any strong indications that these programs were having an impact in the direction desired," said Buzz Pruitt, who directed the study. The study was delivered to the Texas Department of State Health Services, which commissioned it.

The federal government is expected to spend about $130 million to fund programs advocating abstinence in 2005, despite a lack of evidence that they work, Pruitt said. "The jury is still out, but most of what we've discovered shows there's no evidence the large amount of money spent is having an effect," he said.

The study showed about 23% of ninth-grade girls, typically 13 to 14 years old, had sex before receiving abstinence education. After taking the course, 29% of the girls in the same group said they had had sex. Boys in the 10th grade, about 14 to 15 years old, showed a more marked increase, from 24% to 39%, after receiving abstinence education.

Abstinence-only programs, which have sprouted up in schools across the nation, cannot offer information about birth control and must promote the social and health benefits of abstaining from sex. One program technique has been to try to bolster students' self-esteem, based on the theory that self-confident teenagers would not have sex. Those programs, which sometimes do not even mention sex, have shown no effect, Pruitt said. Other programs that focus on the social norms and expectations appear to be more successful, he said.

Pruitt said he hoped the study would bring about changes in the content of abstinence-promoting programs. "These programs seem to be much more concerned about politics than kids, and we need to get over that," he said. (Reuters)

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