Studies - Abstinence / Pornography / Sex Outside Marriage Research

Parents overwhelmingly oppose comprehensive sex education, support abstinence education (12/03)

A major survey conducted by Zogby International shows that parents overwhelmingly oppose the topics taught to adolescents through comprehensive sex education.

The results of the survey were released today at a press conference in Washington, DC by the Coalition for Adolescent Sexual Health, an ad hoc coalition of groups committed to strong families, research-based education and healthy adolescents.

Polls previously conducted by groups such as Planned Parenthood, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), Advocates for Youth, and the Kaiser Foundation have indicated support by parents for comprehensive sex education. However, members of the Coalition for Adolescent Sexual Health believe that previous polling has been deceptive and illegitimate, because comprehensive sex education has not been adequately defined for parents.

Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America (CWA), a coalition member, states, "Past polls have never really been honest with parents on exactly what comprehensive sex education teaches. Rather than specifically defining comprehensive sex education, questions use generic wording such as, ‘Do you support education that prepare adolescents to avoid contracting a deadly sexually transmitted disease?’ " "What parents would not answer ‘yes’ to this question," added Crouse. The supporters of these polls then claim strong support among parents for programs that provide instruction about condoms, according to Crouse.

"We have always believed that parents would reject comprehensive sex education out-of-hand if they only knew what information was being taught to their kids," stated Dr. Bill Maier, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, a member of the Coalition.

Rather than asking generic questions, the Zogby poll used the specific guidelines for comprehensive sexuality education as developed by SIECUS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and endorsed by such groups as the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, People for the American Way, YWCA and more than 90 other groups.

"We did not want to be accused of making things up about comprehensive sex education the way opponents of abstinence education make things up in their polling," said Dr. Maier, "so we asked Zogby to use verbatim the exact definitions of comprehensive sex education created by its proponents."

In addition to questions based on the comprehensive sex education guidelines, questions were formed using the actual material contained in four of the most widely used comprehensive sex education curricula. "These are not obscure comprehensive sex education curricula, but those programs the CDC has most actively recommended for years," added Maier.

As a contrast to comprehensive sex education, parents were also asked their level of support for the guidelines of abstinence-plus-character education. According to Genevieve Wood, spokesperson for the Family Research Council, "At last we have a survey that settles the question on what parents think of different types of sex education. The Zogby poll asked parents straight-up questions that did not spin either comprehensive sex education or abstinence education into something other than they are."

Results

In total, 1245 parents (random sample, margin of error = 2.8%) were asked 29 questions about sex education – 7 questions dealing with abstinence education, 14 general questions dealing with comprehensive sex education (sometimes erroneously called "abstinence-first" or "abstinence-plus-condoms" education), 5 questions dealing with CDC-promoted sex education curricula and 3 questions dealing with miscellaneous aspects of comprehensive sex education.

Following are the results:

  % of parents who approve or strongly approve % of parents who or disapprove strongly disapprove
Comprehensive sex education guidelines 25.4% 60.5%
Abstinence education guidelines 73.4% 15.8%
CDC-promoted sex education curricula 14.2% 74.9%
Misc. aspects of condom-based "safer-sex" education 22.5% 68.0%

By a 5.4 to 1 margin, parents approve or strongly approve abstinence education. By a 2.4 to 1 margin, parents disapprove or strongly disapprove sex education.

By a 4.9 to 1 margin, parents disapprove or strongly disapprove of the information contained in CDC promoted sex education curricula.

According to Crouse of CWA, "The message is clear. Parents want the best for their children. In terms of sex education, parents want schools to provide their children with information consistent with their values and expectations. Parents want their children to receive a strong message on abstinence. The overwhelming proportion of parents disapprove of the messages contained in comprehensive or "safer-sex" education." [Coalition for Adolescent Sexual Health Press Release, 12/13/2003]

Leslee Unruh, president of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, another coalition member, agrees. "This report proves once and for all what parents really think. They do not want strangers and teachers telling their children how to have sex. Parents want their children taught about responsibility, decision making, healthy choices and how to build a long lasting marriage relationship. Teaching kids how to use a condom accomplishes none of these objectives. Abstinence-until-marriage education that follows the federal definition set up in the welfare reform legislation is what parents want."

For complete details on the survey, visit www.whatparentsthink.com.

Provided by The Abstinence Clearinghouse

Founder and President: Leslee J. Unruh

801 E 41st St., Sioux Falls, SD 57105

Phone 605.335.3643 *Fax 605.335.0629 * www.abstinence.net * [email protected]