April 16, 2007
The much-anticipated study was authorized by Congress in 1997. Its release comes as questions are being raised as to the effectiveness of the programs. Currently, the federal government spends an annual $176 million on abstinence education, while millions more are spent each year through matching state and local grants. Eight states that used to receive federal abstinence money now decline to accept the funds. A bill introduced in Congress with bi-partisan support seeks to allocate money for sex education that teaches abstinence as well as contraception. In addition, federal abstinence funds are up for congressional renewal under the Title V grant.
The study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc., surveyed children in four communities -- two urban, two rural. All participants received the family life services available in their community, and slightly more than half also received abstinence-only education. At the end of the study, when the average participant was almost 17, half of both groups had remained abstinent.
The average age of sexual debut for teens in both groups was 15. Of those who were sexually active, almost half said they used condoms only "sometimes" or "never." Less than a quarter of teens in both groups reported using a condom every time they had sex. Students in both groups were knowledgeable about the risks of having sex without using a condom or other means of protection. More than a third of all of the sexually active teens reported having had two or more partners.
The adolescents who participated in abstinence programs did not use condoms less than other kids, the study found. They did, however, show slightly higher knowledge about STD prevention.
To view the report online, visit: www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/PDFs/impactabstinence.pdf.