Why Abstinence and "Purity" Pledges Don't Work

Why Abstinence and "Purity" Pledges Don't Work

In the United States today, 37 states mandate that information on abstinence be provided in sex education courses. As you might imagine, it’s not uncommon for students to be asked to take “purity” or virginity pledges as part of the sex ed. curriculum in these states. 

Students are encouraged to take these pledges in order to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections, but also to prevent unwanted pregnancies. As it turns out, however, abstinence pledges don’t necessarily accomplish either of these goals. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that they might do just the opposite!

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Why Dutch Teens Have Better Sexual Health Than American Teens

Why Dutch Teens Have Better Sexual Health Than American Teens

This week in my study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands, we're focusing on cross-cultural differences in sexual health and sex education. As a starting point, we're reviewing some statistics that highlight how dramatically different teens’ sexual health outcomes are in the Netherlands relative to the U.S. Check out the infographic below for a quick overview, which shows that teen girls in the Netherlands have much lower rates of pregnancy, birth, and abortion. Below, we’ll discuss why.

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Why Teens Have Better Sexual Health in the Netherlands than the US

Why Teens Have Better Sexual Health in the Netherlands than the US

The next unit in my Amsterdam study abroad course focuses on sexual health and sex education. As a starting point, I shared some statistics with my students highlighting just how dramatically different teens’ sexual health outcomes are in the Netherlands compared to the United States. So that you can get some sense of this, too, I’ve put together the infographic below, which reveals that teen girls in the Netherlands have far lower rates of pregnancy, birth, and abortion. Below, we’ll discuss why.

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Infographic: The State of Sex Education in the U.S. in 2017

Infographic: The State of Sex Education in the U.S. in 2017

Sex education is wildly inconsistent throughout the United States. For one thing, only about half of the states even require it, while the other half do not. However, even in the states that mandate sex education, the information teachers are required to provide doesn't necessarily have to be useful--in fact, in some states, it doesn't even have to be correct! The current status of sex education in the U.S. remains pretty poor as we enter 2017, which is a big part of the reason this country has one of the highest teen pregnancy and STI rates in the industrialized world. Check out the infographic below for a closer look at just how incredibly variable sex education is across the country.

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10 Things You Should Know About the Sex Lives of American Teenagers

10 Things You Should Know About the Sex Lives of American Teenagers

Popular media articles on adolescent sexuality usually paint a portrait of the modern American teenager as hypersexual. Among other things, these articles give the impression that teens are having sex at younger and younger ages, they’re constantly hooking up and sexting, and they’re engaging in a lot of risky sexual behavior, thanks to a diet of highly sexual movies and TV shows. By contrast, scientific research on the sex lives of adolescents suggests a very different set of conclusions. Here are 10 things you should know about the sex lives of American teenagers, according to science.

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The Problem With Abstinence Pledges

The Problem With Abstinence Pledges

In the U.S. today, 37 states mandate that information on abstinence be provided in sex education courses. In those states, it is not uncommon for students to be asked to take “purity” or virginity pledges as part of the curriculum.

Students are often encouraged to take these pledges in order to both reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections and to prevent unintended pregnancies. As it turns out, however, abstinence pledges don’t necessarily accomplish either one of these things. In fact, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that they may do just the opposite!

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Teen Pregnancies Are Falling, But No Thanks To Abstinence-Only Sex Education

Teen Pregnancies Are Falling, But No Thanks To Abstinence-Only Sex Education

According to a new report from the CDC, the number of teenagers giving birth is at its lowest point in the last 15 years. In fact, between 1991 and 2014, there was a whopping 61 percent drop in births among U.S. women aged 15-19!

This decline occurred among women of all racial backgrounds, although it was even more pronounced for racial minorities than it was for White women.

In light of this trend, many people are wondering why—who or what should be credited with decreasing the teen pregnancy and birth rates so much?

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The U.S. Teen Birth Rate Has Reached A Historic Low (Infographic)

The U.S. Teen Birth Rate Has Reached A Historic Low (Infographic)

The teenage birth rate in the United States has hit a record low, according to a new report from the CDC. Check out the infographic below for a look at some of the major highlights and statistics from the CDC's analysis. As you’ll see, the changes that have occurred over the last two decades are truly staggering.

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Funding for Abstinence-Only Sex Ed May be Eliminated From the Federal Budget

Funding for Abstinence-Only Sex Ed May be Eliminated From the Federal Budget

In President Obama’s proposed budget for 2017, he has eliminated all funding for abstinence-only sex education in the nation’s public schools. Whether this will ultimately come to pass is far from certain, though, because any budget must be negotiated with and approved by Congress before it can go into effect. However, from a scientific perspective, Obama’s proposal is definitely a step in the right direction.

The United States government has reportedly spent more than $1.5 billion on abstinence-only sex education over the past quarter-century, and we have little to show for it. Study after study published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals has revealed that this type of sex education is woefully ineffective and, instead, may actually be counterproductive.

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No-Cost Contraception May Reduce Abortion Rates and Teenage Pregnancies

Although the teenage birth rate has decreased in the United States in recent years, the percentage of teen girls giving birth is still higher here than anywhere else in the developed world. Likewise, while the U.S. abortion rate has also fallen, the number of abortions performed in this country each year is higher than it is in Canada, Europe, and a number of other countries. In order to address these issues, some doctors and sexual health experts have proposed making free or low-cost contraceptives more widely available. And, in fact, as of August 1, 2012, the Affordable Care Act now makes contraceptives available without a copay for women who begin new insurance plans or renew their old plans. But will greater access to contraceptives actually reduce abortion and teen pregnancy rates? According to a new study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the answer is a resounding yes.
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