- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Teens in abstinence programs are likely to embrace the idea of chastity and take pledges to remain virgins until marriage, according to new federally funded research released yesterday.

Questions remain about whether the teens really will keep their promises to wait, said researchers Christopher Trenholm of Mathematica Policy Research Inc. and Rebecca A. Maynard of the University of Pennsylvania. Additional research conducted over the next few years as the teens age will determine the success of abstinence programs in changing behavior, they said.

Yesterday’s report is the first from a longitudinal federal study to evaluate abstinence-education programs funded by the $50 million-per-year Title V program, which was established in the 1996 welfare-reform law.

The study, which was contracted in 1998 by the Health and Human Services Department, involved 2,310 elementary- and middle-school students. Sixty percent of the students were assigned randomly to one of four Title V-funded abstinence programs and the rest to control groups.

The four programs are My Choice, My Future! in Powhatan County, Va.; ReCapturing the Vision in Miami; Teens in Control in Clarksdale, Miss.; and Families United to Prevent Teen Pregnancy in Milwaukee.

After the students had spent a year in their programs, researchers asked them about their knowledge of subjects such as reproduction, risks of sexual activity outside of wedlock, marriage and relationships. They also were asked if the classes were helpful, whether they had taken a virginity pledge and whether their parents were involved in the programs.

The results were that students in all four abstinence programs held significantly stronger views in favor of abstinence and against unwed teen sex than their peers in the control groups.

The abstinence students also were more likely to understand the negative consequences of unwed sex, and in three of the programs, significantly more youth took virginity pledges than did their control-group peers.

There were no significant differences, however, between the groups and their views of marriage, confidence in refusing sexual advances, communication with parents and perceptions about peer pressure to have sex.

Leslee J. Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, welcomed the study as more evidence that abstinence education works.

?Abstinence education results in healthy, self-confident kids,? she said.

The Mathematica study offers very few answers, said Bill Smith, policy director for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, which opposes abstinence-only education.

The average age of the students was 13, ?so there’s no surprise here? that they support abstinence, Mr. Smith said.

At this young age, teens in more comprehensive sex education are also likely to be positive about sexual abstinence, he said.

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