Why abstinence? It’s right and it works

By Chad HillsFocus on the Family Focus on the Family advocates abstinence education because it works. Really? Yes – and … Continued

By Chad Hills
Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family advocates abstinence education because it works. Really? Yes – and we have evidence that proves our claim. But first, some context.

Today it’s difficult for young people to comprehend sexual purity, much less put it into practice. Our present culture defines relationships as by-products of sexual performance, and its concept of “beauty” straddles a thin gray line between salacious exposure and soft porn. It also doesn’t help young adults that their parents and the culture encourage them to put education and career ahead of marriage and family, thus driving the average age of marriage well beyond the mid-20s.

But if you talk to young people, a gradual change is taking place.

They’re experiencing the aftermath of a sexual tsunami, and are sorting through the refuge left in the wake of sexually liberated parents. The fallout from broken, dysfunctional families is painful – a model they don’t want to replicate. Young men and women are searching for brighter futures and not so sure they want to follow the road map they’ve seen modeled and taught.

Enter the findings of a landmark study published in the February 2010 Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. This study of 662 high-risk, African-Americans in sixth and seventh grade offers the latest proof we have to add to our growing mountain of evidence that abstinence education works.

There are the four take-away points from this latest and hugely noteworthy landmark research. Students receiving abstinence-centered education:

-initiated sex less;
-had fewer sexual partners;
-(Hold your breath …) did not reduce their use of condoms among the sexually active;
-had more pronounced risk reductions than those receiving safe-sex and comprehensive sex education, which showed little difference compared to students receiving no formal sex education.

The study’s objective conclusion? “Theory-based abstinence-only interventions may have an important role in preventing adolescent sexual involvement.”

Abstinence-centered education is effective with this generation because it provides direction, character education and a guide for healthy living. It gives hope for a brighter future to those regretting their sexual involvement. It encourages parents to participate in and lead this discussion.

So it seems that while President Obama promised change to young America, his Administration is actually short-changing the next generation by de-funding abstinence-centered programs in our nation. Let’s hope our President lends more support to where the evidence is leading – because abstinence education works. Really!

Chad Hills is sexual health research and policy analyst at Focus on the Family.


  • ZZim

    Why do they call it “theory-based”? Does that mean focusing on the negative effects of premarital sex instead of the morality of premarital sex?Either way is fine with me, whatever works, I was just curious about the qualifier the authors threw in there.

  • lizae

    Abstinence-only education for 6th and 7th graders is a helluva lot different than abstinence-only education for high school aged teens.

  • Irina1

    ‘ It also doesn’t help young adults that their parents and the culture encourage them to put education and career ahead of marriage and family, thus driving the average age of marriage well beyond the mid-20s.’And what is a young man supposed to work in today’s economy without an education? Or when you say young adults, you mean – girls…not to go to school, not to work, but to hurry to get married…

  • GHarrisonJones

    Re: “It also doesn’t help young adults that their parents and the culture encourage them to put education and career ahead of marriage and family, thus driving the average age of marriage well beyond the mid-20s.”It’s really not an “either-or” proposition. Yet, we are so accustomed these days to a “binary” approach to marriage and career. It’s as if the two are necessarily pitted against each other — so much so that 20-somethings have no model (or the supportive structures) which afford them the vision or tools to aspire concurrently to *both*…doing both sufficiently and well.Yes, of course, it’s prudent to get established with a solid educational/vocational plan. And by all means, get the degree! But this nearly monolithic approach (urged often by well-meaning parents) of eclipsing family aspirations with career is a mis-match with the good-and-natural human biological clock. This assumed approach caters more to the values of the *economy* over and above the realities etched into our bodies and even into our hearts (as beings who deeply desire, need and benefit from committed lifelong relationship.)A more balanced, non-binary message to youth about career vs family would indeed be healthy for young adults as they steward their sexual choices. I agree.

  • Denise9

    While you shouldn’t rush into marriage, it’s senseless to needlessly delay it, too. Who says you can’t study or build your career at the same time you build your marriage? For generations men and women have worked together to reach their goals and their dreams, and now, all of a sudden, we’re telling teens to delay their legitimate hopes of marriage and family for financial goals. Know what? A big house, a European vacation and designer jeans won’t make you as happy as a family. What we need to do is encourage kids to live out healthy sexuality — and yes, that includes abstinence until marriage — and then give them “permission” to get married earlier in life! Abstinence is a whole lot harder if you think you need to wait until you’re 40, but more doable when you know it’s OK to get married at 22 while a senior in college. Get married, start your family, build your career, and forego all the emotional pain and diseases brought on by irresponsible sexual flings. It’s a lot happier for folks who do things the old-fashioned way and who have a faith to hold on to when life gets tough.

  • Marimom

    The whole family had a good chuckle when my cousin who had signed a “virginity pledge” and worn a special ring throughout her teenage years got knocked up out of wedlock. Guess her mom feels pretty dumb now for mentioning the pledge in her annual Christmas letter. Instead this year we got a mass email to the whole family about how her daughter had shamed her. Good times!Meanwhile those of us on the other side of the family that learned about birth control and responsible practices didn’t get pregnant until AFTER we were married.

  • coloradodog

    Your “evidence” is your darling little godlings “self-reporting” Just because you delusionally believe they are always honest doesn’t mean its so. What are they going to tell you – that they have a little romp in the back seats of their cars after Bible study?I have no problem with you declaring that it is “right” For you, capital punishment and pre-emptive war is “right”, too, even though your Sixth Commandment says it’s not.The problem here is not giving youngsters all the tools to prevent STD’s and unwanted pregnancies that only graphic sex education including how to use of condoms has. I was shocked then pleasantly surprised that here in Mexico, a predominately Catholic country, my middle school English classroom had graphic student-made posters of reproductive and sexual anatomy along with drawing of the causes and effects of all the STD’s. Prudish Huckabee bullies in the US would be up in arms encountering such reality. Which country is really backward?Maybe the Pope thinks condoms cause AIDS but jamming your theocratic propaganda down the rest of our throats without scientific facts to supplement the prevention of STD’s and unwanted pregnancy is just plain criminally irresponsible, narrow minded and hypocritical.Your church taught you abstinence when you were a teen. Did you practice it or just “self-report” that you did?

  • hedin1

    Mr. Hills should be fired for not reporting his “evidence” correctly. The “evidence” comes from an HIV/STD risk reduction study clinical NCT00640653 (clinicaltrials.gov). In the cited article “Effectiveness of an Abstinence-Only HIV/Sexually Transmitted Disease Risk-Reduction Intervention for Young African-American Adolescents” the authors do conclude that

  • YEAL9

    “Facts on Contraceptive Usewww.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.htmlWHO NEEDS CONTRACEPTIVES?• 43 million women (and men) of reproductive age, or 7 in 10, are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they or their partners fail to use a contraceptive method.[2]• The typical U.S. woman (man?) wants only 2 children. To achieve this goal, she (he?) must use contraceptives for roughly 3 decades.[3]WHO USES CONTRACEPTIVES? • Virtually all women (98%) aged 15–44 who have ever had intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.[2](and men?)• Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using one.[2] (and men)• 31% of the 62 million women (and men?) do not need a method because they are infertile; are pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant; have never had intercourse; or are not sexually active.[2]• Thus, only 7% of women aged 15–44 are at risk of unwanted pregnancy but are not using contraceptives.[2] (and men?)• Among the 42 million fertile, sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing contraception.[2] (and men?)WHICH METHODS DO WOMEN (men?) USE? • 64% of reproductive-age women who practice contraception use reversible methods, such as oral contraceptives or condoms. The remaining women rely on female or male sterilization.[2]FIRST-YEAR CONTRACEPTIVE FAILURE RATESPeriodic abstinence – 25.3 (Masturbation) 0

  • bpai_99

    Abstinence education may be right, but it has been shown conclusively that it doesn’t work. Only Focus on the Family and those who think like it, whose opinions preclude them from ever considering evidence objectively, could claim otherwise. Facts are stubborn things, even more stubborn than religious zealots who reject science and critical thinking.

  • coloradodog

    Oh, I get it now. Sorry I missed a fine distinction in your post, Duane.Your Sixth Commandment really says “Thou Shalt Not MURDER” instead of “kill” and “the authorities” get to decide the difference.

  • coloradodog

    So, Chad, tell us. Did you practice “abstinence” before you were married, or just “self-report” you did. Did you live up to the high moral standards you expect impulsive, hormone-crazed teens to live up to now?

  • PSolus

    What actually works is teaching kids to forego sex until they are physically, psychologically, and financially ready for it, without using superstitious reasons such as “sex is evil”, “sex is the work of the devil”, “sex makes jebus cry”, “purity is god-like”, etc.

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