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Prevention/Epidemiology

New Study Raises Questions About Abstinence Pledges

November 4, 2003

Commitments signed by teenagers pledging that they will not have sex before marriage might be less than effective, according to a recent Northern Kentucky University survey of nearly 600 teens -- more than half of whom said a person should still be considered abstinent after engaging in oral sex.

The survey revealed that 61 percent of teens who had taken abstinence pledges had broken them within a year. Of the 39 percent who said they had not broken their pledges, more than half disclosed they had engaged in oral sex.

"Some people feel like they can maintain their pledge and still have oral sex, and that oral sex doesn't count," said NKU researcher and psychologist Angela Lipsitz. "The problem is you can get a lot of STDs from oral sex."

In addition, pledge takers are less likely to use protection when they first have sex, getting swept up in the moment without being adequately prepared, noted Lipsitz. However, the study showed that pledge breakers had sex a year later -- at age 17.6 -- than non-pledging students. The study "does raise some caution flags that we need to look at honestly and see if these pledges are doing what people hope they are doing," said Lipsitz.

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Dr. W. David Hager, a Lexington physician and abstinence advocate, traced the increase in oral sex to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and President Bill Clinton's assertion that oral sex was not really sex. Abstinence advocates have noticed this trend and are now putting more emphasis on oral sex as unacceptable.

According to Hager, parents can help by getting kids thinking about the consequences of premature sex; in addition, support from peers is critical. Pledge takers must have "a peer group where the individuals in that peer group are encouraging abstinence."

Back to other news for November 4, 2003

Adapted from:
News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)
11.03.03; Mary Meehan



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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