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UW study suggests comprehensive sex education reduces teen pregnancies

School of Public Health researchers Pamela Kohler (Health Services), Lisa Manhart (Epidemiology) and Bill Lafferty (Health Services) examined the results of the National Survey of Family Growth to determine the association between type of sex education and risk for engaging in sexual activity and for teen pregnancy in a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Authors found that 67% of heterosexual adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 received comprehensive sex education (education about how to say no to sex in addition to education about birth control). About a quarter of adolescents received abstinence-only education and 9% received no sex education at all.

Adjusted for potential confounding factors, those who received comprehensive education were 60% less likely to report teen pregnancy than those who received no sex education and 50% less like to report teen pregnancy than those who received abstinence only education. There was also a strong trend indicating that those who received comprehensive education were less likely to engage in sexual intercourse compared to those who received no sex education. No significant decrease in risk for either pregnancy or engaging in sex was found for abstinence only education.

In an accompanying editorial in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Norman Constantine of the University of California, Berkeley states, "Moral values do have a place in public policy discourse, yet it is imperative for all sides to recognize that there is no evidentiary basis for AO [Abstinence Only] education and that a growing foundation of convergent evidence favors CSE [Comprehensive Sex Education]."

To view the article in The Journal of Adolescent Health click on

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.08.026

To read coverage of the study in The Seattle Times go to

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2004293974_sexed20m.html