Studies - Abstinence / Pornography / Sex Outside Marriage Research

Virginity Pledgers Have Lower STD Rates & Engage in Fewer Sexual Behaviors (6/05)

New Study Re-Examines Virginity Pledge: “Junk science” exposed at HHS conference. The US House of Reps officially approved a $10.82 million increase for abstinence education 24June [Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill].

This vote follows other good abstinence news:

A new study, by Rector & Johnson, reexamining data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health [Add Health] [database funded by the US gov’t], found Virginity Pledges to be helpful tools in deterring sexual activity.

This Heritage Fdn study pointed out serious and consequential flaws in an analysis of virginity pledges released in 4/05 by Peter Bearman [Columbia Univ] & Hannah Bruckner [Yale] [4/05, Journal of Adolescent Health] who publicly defamed abstinence education.

Kristi Hayes [Dir, Government Affairs, Abstinence Clearinghouse]: “Abstinence education continues to be proven effective. Is anyone really surprised? Abstinence education is common sense. Kids want relationships and security. They want meaning and purpose in their lives. Abstinence education teaches kids how they can have a healthy, happy future. That’s why it works.”

For more than a decade, abstinence educators have encouraged young people to abstain from sexual activity & to take a verbal or written pledge to abstain from sex until marriage.

Although abstinence programs have received recent negative coverage, the new report released at the Welfare Research & Evaluation Conference hosted by the US Dept of Health & Human Services (HHS) seeks to clarify previous findings.

The new research validates what abstinence educators have known all along — abstinence pledges work. The new research was conducted by Robert Rector and Dr. Kirk Johnson of Heritage Foundation: "Adolescents who take virginity pledges are less likely to have STDs as young adults when compared to non-pledgers from similar backgrounds. Adolescents who take virginity pledges are also less likely to engage in risky sex behaviors than were non-pledgers. The more risky the behavior the less likely pledgers are to do it."

Taking a virginity pledge is "strongly associated" with lower rates of STDs — teen pledgers are 25 percent less likely to have STDs as young adults than non-pledging peers, Heritage Fdn researchers Rector and Johnson said in their reports.

In addition, when pledgers and non-pledgers are compared on oral and anal sexual activity, data show that the pledgers are significantly less likely to engage in such practices, the Heritage researchers said. This remains true even when sexually active pledgers are compared with sexually active non-pledgers.

Rector & Johnson found that Bearman & Bruckner ignored 4 statistically significant measures of STD, all of which showed that pledgers were far less likely to have an STD than non-pledgers. The researchers instead chose to report a fifth measure, which showed the same result, but was not significant. 

The Bearman study, based on just one STD measure, said the pledgers' STD rate "does not differ" from that of non-pledgers. However, the Heritage researchers said, when STD rates were analyzed in 5 ways, pledgers had significantly lower STD rates in 4 areas and had a rate that was almost significantly lower in the 5th area.

“Several discrepancies were immediately apparent,” stated Rector.

“For starters, the Add Health data clearly reveal Bearman and Bruckner inferred [that virginity pledgers are more likely to engage in alternative sexual practices (sex other than vaginal intercourse) when compared to non-pledgers,] by looking at a microscopic subset which included only 21 respondents out of a total sample of 14,116. Bearman and Bruckner used junk science to unfairly attack abstinence education.”

Rector & Johnson’s report found that although many years pass between the adolescence when a pledge is taken and marriage, taking a virginity pledge is associated with a broad array of positive outcomes.

When compared to similar non-pledgers, adolescent virginity pledgers have far fewer sex partners overall; pledgers are less likely to engage in sex while in high school and while not married as a young adult; less likely to experience teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock birth; less likely to have children in their teen and young adult years; less likely to engage in alternate sexual activities and outercourse; and less likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD/STI).

Leslee Unruh [pres, Abstinence Clearinghouse]: "Premarital sexual activity is a problem because it results in pregnancy, STD, broken hearts, and more…Virginity pledges, as one component of holistic abstinence education, are proven to be effective where contraceptive sex education has failed America's teens…Once again, the abstinence education, wanted by parents everywhere, is proven healthy and effective." [The Heritage Fdn, 14June05, http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/wm762.cfm; Cheryl Wetzstein, The Washington Times, 14June05; Medical Institute Advisory, 24June05; Abstinence Clearinghouse Email Update, 24June05; News Release, Abstinence Clearinghouse, AL Physicians For Life, Inc., 15June05] Related: Adolescent Virginity Pledges, Condom Use, and STDs Among Young Adults, by Robert Rector and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., Conference Paper 14June05, http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/whitepaper06142005-1.cfm;  Adolescent Virginity Pledges & Risky Sexual Behaviors, by R Rector & K A. Johnson, Ph.D. Conference Paper 14June05, http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/whitepaper06142005-2.cfm 

5/05 — NEW STUDIES PROVE ABSTINENCE EDUCATION WORKS – According to researchers from the Institute for Research and Evaluation (Salt Lake City, UT), the Robinson Institute (Charlotte, NC), and Baylor University (Waco, TX) abstinence education works.

The results of abstinence programs Choosing the Best, Teen STAR, Worth the Wait, the Choice Game Curriculum, and Peers Educating Peers about Positive Values were studied and found to be effective.

Teens participating in these programs were more likely to remain abstinent or to practice secondary virginity than their peers who did not receive abstinence education.
[The Washington Times, 05/28/05; Abstinence Clearinghouse E-Mail Update, posted 28May05, 06/01/05]