Monday, January 16, 2012

Know the Truth - Abstinence Education Works

Abstinence education is a useless construct of the Right...right? A survey of mainstream media would lead you to believe just that. the truth, should it ever get out, is shocking. There is an abundance of evidence that shows abstinence education is effective in reducing teen pregnancy. This evidence is important to consider now that the Democratically controlled congress has cut Title V funding (abstinence education) from the budget.

In Georgia, since adopting abstinence education the teen pregnancy rate has dropped 46 percent. The steepest declines occurred when abstinence was at its highest funding stage. This pregnancy decline started in 1995 when the state of Georgia made abstinence its statewide policy. Think about that, a 46 percent decline in teen pregnancy as a result of a statewide policy of abstinence education. Shouldn't that have received at least a footnote in the anti abstinence campaign the mainstream media has been waging?

A randomized controlled trial conducted by jimmott it al. found that abstinence-only intervention significantly reduced sexual initiation among young African American adolescents after a 24-month follow-up period, and did not reduce condom use for those virgins who did become sexually active.

An evaluation of "Reasons of the Heart" abstinence curriculum found that adolescent program participants were approximately one half as likely as the matched comparison group to initiate sexual activity after one year. The program effect was as strong for the African American subgroup in the sample as it was overall.

The "Sex Respect" and "Teen Aid" abstinence-only programs reduced the rate of initiation of sex by more than one third for the high-risk students in a Caucasian high school sample after 12 months.

These are just a few of the many peer reviewed studies out there that show abstinence education get positive measurable results. Have your heard of any of them? Why did the media ignore peer reviewed studies that showed abstinence education works? And, if the evidence that abstinence education works is so prevalent, why has funding for Title V been discontinued?

There is one study however, that enjoyed wide exposure and acceptance. It was quoted and covered by all the major news outlets. Can a study become a media darling? The Mathmatica Study did. The Mathmatica study showed conclusively that abstinence education doesn't work...right? If you read the headlines that is what you would have come away with. Headline after headline: "Abstinence Education Proven Ineffective". The Mathmatica study was championed by all the mainstream media and quoted by politicians that wanted to do away with abstinence programming. So, let's take a look at Mathmatica

The Mathmatica studey examined four abstinence programs, that's right, four. Those four programs showed no positive outcomes for teen sexual behavior (of this there is no debate, the four programs were not effective in reducing teen sexual activity). take a close look at the number of program Mathmatica examined: four. That's it. Now the headlines and articles never mentioned that only four programs were looked at. Why? The headlines and articles that ran in the national newspapers and were story leads on ABC, CNN, NBC, and CBS were clear: "Abstinence Education Ineffective". Wouldn't a much more honest and accurate headline have been, "Mathmatica Study shows four abstinence education programs ineffective"? Why did the mainstream media withhold the information that Mathmatica only looked at four programs? Can you honestly evaluate a national movement with thousands of programs by looking at four of them?

All four of the programs Mathmatica evaluated used a non-representative study sample. The four programs served African American youth from poor single-parent households. Why didn't the mainstream media cover this?

The programs themselves were flawed. I know that's harsh, but they were. The very structure of the programs guaranteed they would not be successful. The four programs that Mathmatica looked at had intervention ages that were young. Some students were involved with the program as young as 4th and 5th grade. And then never again. That's right, none of the programs had any contact with the students during the 9th, 10th, or 11th grade when transition to sexual activity typically occurs. Of course the programs failed. How could they succeed? How can you expect to impact sexual behavior if you don't intervene during the years that sexual behavior starts? They were failed programs to begin with.


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