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Teen pregnancy low in ‘sleepover’ country of the Netherlands
American parents say, ‘No way’
America’s battle over sex education could be boiled down to one question: Would you let your teenager spend the night with his or her sweetheart in your home?
When 32 American parents were asked this question, 29 said no, including one mother who blurted out, “No way, Jose!” said Amy Schalet, author of the new book “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens and the Culture of Sex.”
But in the Netherlands, where rates of teen pregnancy, birth and abortion are low, 24 out of 26 parents said that yes, under the right circumstances, they would let their teenager spend the night with their steady boyfriend or girlfriend.
“If you are ready … say it honestly, and use the pill,” one Dutch mother told her teenage daughter, who now regularly sleeps with her boyfriend in the family home.
Is it time for the U.S. to “go Dutch”?
No, “I do not think Americans should emulate the Dutch. I don’t think that’s possible, even if it were desirable,” said Ms. Schalet, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
But she quickly added: Americans should seriously question many of their assumptions about teens and sex.
Dutch parents have learned to “normalize” sexual development with their children, but American parents are still “dramatizing” it, she explained.
A Senate-passed appropriations bill for fiscal 2012 would spend $113 million to maintain the administration’s fledgling grant program aimed at replicated specific teen pregnancy prevention programs. Many of these “proven” programs discuss sexual abstinence as well as birth control and condoms.
However, a draft bill from the House Appropriations Committee slashes the funding to $40 million, and splits it between teen pregnancy prevention and abstinence education programs.
Abstinence supporters are cheered by the House bill, but those who support the Obama administration’s approach are aghast. A decision about the funding has been postponed again. At the end of last week, Congress passed a bill to extend funding for Health and Human Services programs, as is, through Dec. 16, and the president signed it.
This kind of tug of war is easily seen when Dutch and U.S. sex-education approaches are compared, Ms. Schalet said.
Dutch parents talk openly with their children about “waiting until ready” to have sex; healthy relationships; and responsible behavior, such as contraception use, when sexual activity begins, Ms. Schalet said.
The “sleepover” comes up when a son or daughter turns 16 or 17 and finds a serious romantic partner.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.
Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
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