Education an Important Contribution to Helping Youth Make Healthy Choices About Sexual Health

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Sexual Health and Youth

The findings of a major longitudinal study of abstinence-education released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS) provide further evidence that abstinence-education is the only intervention that helps youth avoid risky sexual behavior.

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The report clearly reveals that students who participate in abstinence-education programs have a fuller understanding of the consequences of early sexual activity and are more likely to recognize the avoidance of sexual behavior as a positive choice. They were also less likely to view having sex in their adolescent years as a healthy choice.

These are the findings of a five-year longitudinal study following youth in four abstinence-education programs. The report, prepared by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. for US DHHS, only explored attitudinal changes of participating youth. It did not examine behavioral changes. The behavioral impact of the programs will be reported after the study concludes in 2006.

This report is further evidence that abstinence-education programs, by helping youth understand healthy relationships and the risks of early sexual activity and by strengthening their decision-making and communication skills, are having a positive impact on the lives of students.

While pointing out that the findings released today focus on attitudinal change and do not yet reveal anything about the behavioral impact of the four programs being studied, there is a growing body of research documenting the impact of abstinence-education on behavior. For example, at least two peer-reviewed studies of abstinence-education programs have found that these programs have succeeded at significantly lowering pregnancy rates among teens. And, in two separate papers also presented, an analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health shows that teens who sign virginity pledges have significantly lower STD rates as young adults.

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