South Carolina Sex Education Program Made No Difference In Preventing, Delaying Sex
Preventing, Delaying Sex
A South Carolina supplemental abstinence-only sex education programmade no difference in the sexual behavior of teenagers, but teens whoparticipated in the program were more likely to support abstinencemessages, according to a study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and published last month by HHS, the Washington Times reports.
Thestudy was conducted for HHS to examine the effects of a supplementalabstinence program rather than a full abstinence program, according tothe Times. For the study, 604 students took Heritage Community Services'core abstinence education program called Heritage Keepers, but onlyhalf participated in the group's supplemental Life Skills Educationprogram, Christopher Trenholm of Mathematica said.
The studyfound that students who took the supplemental courses weresignificantly more likely to support abstinence messages and to saythey expected to abstain from sex at least through high school, if notuntil marriage, compared with students who did not take the courses.However, the study found that 40% of both groups reported having sex atleast once and did not differ in the age they first had sex or theirnumber of sexual partners.
Heritage is a grantee of the federal Title V abstinence education program, the Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times,9/5). The Title V program distributes money based on a formula favoringstates with more low-income children. To receive Title V funds, statesmust adhere to certain requirements, including barring teachers fromdiscussing contraception and requiring them to say that sex withinmarriage is "the expected standard of sexual activity." Many stategovernors have said the grants place too many restrictions on thecurricula. The House and Senate earlier this year voted to extend theprogram until Sept. 30 (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/18).
According to the Times, the House earlier this year passed a measure (HR 3162)that would extend the program for two years and authorize $50 millionin funding. The measure, which has not yet been considered in theSenate, would allow states to use abstinence education funds for othertypes of sex education (Washington Times, 9/5). The billalso would require all programs that receive funding to providemedically accurate information and demonstrate effectiveness inreducing rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections such asHIV (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/2).
The support for abstinence messages among the group that took thesupplemental courses is "an important starting point," Trenholm said,adding, "You would not expect to see behavioral changes down the roadif you didn't see changes" in expectations. Martha Kempner of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United Stateson Tuesday said that the study shows that "if it's a bad message, youcan pound it into a kid's head every day throughout a school year, andit's still not going to make a difference."
She added that shewas particularly unhappy with the lack of knowledge about condomefficacy among study participants. Many of the teens thought condomswould not prevent most HIV transmission, Kempner said. Anne Badgley,founder of Heritage Community Services, referred questions toMathematica about the study (Washington Times, 9/5).
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