Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Abstinence Doesn’t Resonate with Teens

Teen pregnancy and birth rates vary widely by state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The highest rates were in five southern states; Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Mississippi topped the list, with 65.7 births per 1,000 teens aged 15-19 in 2008. The lowest rates were in four northeastern states; Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont. New Hampshire had the lowest teen pregnancy rate, with only 19.8 births per 1,000 teens.

The Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health and education, was quick to point out that the five states with the highest teen birth rates all require that abstinence be stressed in their education programs on sex or HIV, whereas none of four states with the lowest rates specifically require that abstinence be stressed. The implication is that teen birth rates are lower when students are provided with comprehensive, evidence-based sex education than when they are just told that abstinence is a goal.

Critics of the findings say that there are many other differences between the states with the highest and the lowest teen pregnancy rates, including racial and cultural differences. However, the disparities remain even when race is factored out.

Of course a correlation does not prove causation. But it’s still an interesting hypothesis, that stressing abstinence is not an effective way to reduce teen pregnancies.

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