Abstinence-only education can influence teen sexual behavior andbeliefs, according to a Case Western Reserve School of Medicine studypublished in the American Journal of Health Behavior.
The study examined the effectiveness of For Keeps, anabstinence-until-marriage sex education program that has been presentedto more than 25,000 students at public and private schools in theGreater Cleveland area.
The goal of the curriculum, developed by Operation Keepsake isto increase abstinence beliefs and intention, increase efficacy insituational resistance, reduce early sexual experimentation andencourage renewed abstinence among teens already sexually active. Thestudy involved 2,069 middle school students questioned about theirsexual knowledge and practices before and five months after receivingthe For Keeps curriculum. Students were enrolled in classrooms thatwere assigned to be intervention or controls (receiving the curriculumafter the evaluation was completed.
Researchers led by Elaine A. Borawski, Ph.D., in the Departmentof Epidemiology and Biostatistics, found that after going through theprogram, teens reported significant increases in their HIV/STDknowledge, their personal beliefs about the importance of abstinenceand their intentions to remain abstinent in the near future.
But the program did not affect students' confidence to avoidrisky sexual situations, and sexually inexperienced and female studentsactually reported a decrease in their intent to use condoms in thefuture. However, no changes in condom use intentions were observedamong sexually active or male students. The study also found that theprogram did not significantly reduce the likelihood that teens wouldengage in sexual intercourse or to use a condom consistently
A surprising finding revealed that while sexually activestudents exposed to the intervention were not more likely to abstainfrom sex, they did report fewer casual sex encounters and fewer sexualpartners than their peers who did not receive the program.
"This community-based evaluation reveals that abstinence-onlyintervention can influence knowledge, beliefs and intentions, and amongsexually experienced students, may reduce the prevalence of casualsex," Borawski said, adding that the intent of teens to reduce theircondom use merits further study to determine long-term implications.
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