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Kay Kiefer, Published September 18 2010

Research shows abstinence is an effective choice for teens

What we know is always evolving – researchers are constantly studying and then publishing their findings for us to learn from. In the past, there were no studies in professional peer-reviewed journals to give us objective insight into the impact of abstinence education programs. Thankfully, stringent requirements of federal funding for such programs have included a mandate that 15 percent of each grant awarded be dedicated to rigorous evaluation. This has led to an increasingly robust body of research showing that abstinence-centered programs do indeed have a positive impact on 12- to 18-year-olds.

Students who receive this programming show that they are learning the benefits of reserving sexual expression until marriage, as well as indicating that sexual abstinence is a healthy personal choice, and finally, as evidenced in a study this past January, that they delay sexual debut longer than those who do not receive this education.

And education is exactly what is involved in these programs. All curricula used in federally funded programs have been reviewed for medical accuracy. But students who receive this education do not just hear about body parts and mechanics. They learn to set goals for their lives and then discover how the decisions that they make today (about drugs, alcohol, attention to studies, sexual activity, etc.) can impair their ability to reach those goals. They learn that sexual intimacy is not simply physical but that it impacts the whole being – physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and creative.

Furthermore, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study released in August 2010 indicates that the overwhelming majority of parents and their teens are opposed to pre-marital sex. This finding is consistent with results from previous public opinion surveys of parents on abstinence and abstinence messages.

Abstinence, the only 100 percent prevention against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, is a bargain when compared to the failed policy of attempting to get teens to correctly and consistently use condoms with every act of sexual intercourse. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is to be applauded for his acceptance of federal dollars that are being offered to states for this purpose.

Kiefer, a registered nurse, is with FirstChoice Clinic of Fargo. She directs a positive youth development program (www.makeasoundchoice.com) that targets 12- to 18-year-olds with character-based risk-avoidance education. This program is used in more than 50 schools in North Dakota and western Minnesota.