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Abstinence-only sex education can persuade young teens to wait, study says

 
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It is nothing if not controversial. Those who believe abstinence-only sex education is the way to reduce teen sexual activity, pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease have taken tons of criticism from those who believe that teens need more information in order to protect themselves. But a new study suggests that abstinence-only classes may be working, at least with younger students.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, found that about two-thirds of sixth- and seventh-graders who took an abstinence-only program resisted having sex within the next two years. In contrast, about half of the kids who took classes where more information about contraception was given became sexually active during that time period.

The Washington Post calls the research a "landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases."

"I think we've written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence," John B. Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who led the federally funded study, told the Post. "Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used."

Abstinence-only programs emphasize the need to avoid sex until marriage in order to prevent pregnancy or STDs. Other sex education programs provide some information on abstinence, but also add information about condom use and birth control.

More from the story:

"The Obama administration eliminated more than $170 million in annual federal funding targeted at abstinence programs after a series of reports concluded that the approach was ineffective. Instead, the White House is launching a $114 million pregnancy prevention initiative that will fund only programs that have been shown scientifically to work -- a program the administration on Monday proposed expanding to $183 million.

"This new study is game-changing," said Sarah Brown, who leads the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

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