Family Research Council
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 16, 2008 CONTACT: J.P. Duffy or Maria Donovan, (866) FRC-NEWS

Family Research Council Calls for Further Study of Abstinence Education Programs

Family Research Council Calls for Further Study of Abstinence Education Programs

The Family Research Council (FRC) has called for further study of abstinence education programs following release of an evaluation of four such programs by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Laying the groundwork for critical health decisions, abstinence education based on sound behavior change theory provides youth with the skills necessary to avoid sexual activity, build character, and develop healthy relationships. The abstinence education community is deeply committed to delivering effective prevention to achieve the best health outcomes in young people.

The HHS study, which was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., focused on four individual abstinence programs which received federal funding under Title V, Section 510. Young people who went through the programs in upper elementary or middle school beginning in 1999 were surveyed four to six years later regarding their sexual behavior and knowledge. This study found that the sexual behavior of young people who went through the programs did not differ significantly from that of their peers in the same community who did not participate.

While the results for these four programs were somewhat disappointing, by no means do they prove that abstinence education is ineffective. The results are in fact isolated and contrary to the totality of abstinence education evaluation results. At a recent government sponsored abstinence education conference, no fewer than two dozen different true abstinence programs were shown to have resulted in significant positive changes in students' attitudes, behavior, or both.

FRC also noted that the study showed students who received abstinence education were no more likely to engage in unprotected sex if they did become sexually active--contradicting a charge often made by opponents of abstinence education.

FRC noted other factors to consider in analyzing this study, including these:
� Abstinence education must be offered when it is age-appropriate. Some of the students in the programs studied were as young as 3rd grade, which may simply be too young for the education to achieve an impact.
� Offering abstinence education at such an early age without continuing it throughout the high school years may be inadequate. The programs lacked reinforcement of risk avoidance education during high school years when most critical.
� Abstinence education methods have evolved and improved since 1999, when the subjects of this study began receiving the intervention.
� School-based interventions alone may not be as effective as ones which include community and parental involvement as well.