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Preventing Teen Pregnancy: What Works
Erica Barnett, 5 Mar 08

With state after state rejecting funding for so-called "abstinence-only" education (sex education that includes no information about avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, and focuses instead on telling teenagers not to have sex until marriage), educators in the United States are taking another look at what does and doesn't work to prevent teen pregnancy. Studies have shown that abstinence-only education does virtually nothing to prevent kids from having sex; the most recent one, released in April 2007, revealed that about half of all kids in both comprehensive and abstinence-only sex education programs had had sex by the end of the study period, and more than a third of both groups had had two or more partners. The only noticeable difference between the groups was that the abstinence-only group used birth control less frequently. Meanwhile, about 900,000 US teenagers get pregnant every year.

So what kind of sex education does work at preventing teen pregnancy? According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the criteria for effective sex education include:

• Curriculum-based education that includes discussion of contraceptive use.

• Youth development programs that focus on keeping young people engaged in their communities and schools, including community service projects.

• Programs that send a clear message that certain choices are better for participants' sexual health than others; e.g., it's better to use contraception than have sex without it, or that it's better to be faithful than promiscuous.

• Programs that are age-appropriate and engage both girls and boys, involving them in the creation of their sex ed curriculum.

The need to do something about teen pregnancy in the United States is as obvious as the failure of abstinence-only curricula. Teen pregnancy has been affirmatively linked to increased poverty, dependence on social services, risky behaviors, a lack of education, and poor outcomes for children born to teenage mothers. According to the Campaign, teen pregnancy costs US taxpayers at least $7 billion each year in direct health
care, foster care, criminal justice, and public assistance costs. The US has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world--almost twice as high as those of England, Wales and Canada, and eight times as high as those of the Netherlands and Japan, despite similar levels of sexual activity. It's time for the US to abandon programs that don't work and try something new: Comprehensive, medically accurate, non-condescending sex education.

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What the whole abstinence-only movement boils down to is a bunch of people who failed to get laid, so instead of fixing what is wrong with them so that other people will have sex with them, they go around telling everyone how great it is to fail to get laid, so that they can feel better.

But at the end of the day, they still feel miserable.

Posted by: Michael Ejercito on 5 Mar 08

Right on. It is so sad that politicians are being used to damage the health of adolescents in this country. In other countries (such as those in Scandanavian countries), sex ed is a matter of public health, not a political, religious or ideological football.

Posted by: Caitlain on 5 Mar 08

Good thoughts, Erica.

Posted by: John L on 5 Mar 08

I wonder how the statistics would change if there was no sex education courses at all. I think parents need to be more involved with talking to their children about this subject, even though it's a difficult subject to talk about. The public school system can't be depended on to give the HS students all the proper guidance. It's obviously not helping that it's not a priority to structure these classes in a more effective manner.

Posted by: Serinah on 5 Mar 08

Having raised four children, now 33 to 19, three girls and a boy, I can tell you for sure, KIDS HAVE SEX. The abstinence only programs are not only; not effective they are dangerous and may be responsible for the increase in STDs AIDS cases as well as an increase in teen pregnancy. If you look at AIDS case and ages of infections it will be clear that kids contract the disease in their teens and early twenties. AIDS is a disease that the developed world should have been able to stop or at least control. Teen pregnancy should also today be an issue of the past. But those numbers are on the rise. Why, because kids don not have the information they need to protect themselves. Kids also need information on how to deal with sexual encounters and they KIDS do have questions. Kids also need to know if something goes wrong for them sexually they can come to you without, judgment and punishment. Everybody has had that bad experience or situation. A book I would recommend you give to your teens is “The Naked Truth About Sex”, by Dr. Roger Libby. Read it yourself first, you will learn a lot of answer to your questions too. Sex and Teens require parents to muster up the courage to tell the truth to their children. It also requires parents to advocate for better sex education in schools. It really is about good health and life and death. So arm your self with the best information you can get and teach your children what you didn’t know. It will be hard but it will be the right thing to do.

Posted by: David E on 6 Mar 08

Folks, FYI:

"O tempora! O mores!"

Brilliant fisking, IMO. It ought to make one think.
Anyone agree?
Or disagree?--and if so, then why?

Posted by: Edgewise on 16 Mar 08



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