Advertisement

Abstinence-only policies and programs: An overview

  • Leslie M. KantorEmail author
  • John S. Santelli
  • Julien Teitler
  • Randall Balmer
Special Issue Article

Abstract

Over the past decade, abstinence education has emerged as the primary U.S. government strategy for dealing with adolescent sexuality. Abstinence-only programs have been found not to help youth delay initiation of sexual intercourse; long-term demographic trends such as later ages at first marriage suggest that policies and programs promoting abstinence until marriage are unlikely to work. Emphasis on abstinence-only programs has coincided with restrictions on what teachers can cover in health education classes and with fewer students reporting that they received information about such topics as contraception and sexually transmitted disease prevention. In addition, concerns have been raised about the scientific accuracy of abstinence-only curricula and the federal government’s failure to develop standards for these programs. Furthermore, offering information only on abstinence and withholding potentially lifesaving knowledge on risk reduction raise ethical and human rights concerns. Policymakers at local, state, and national levels should reconsider their support for abstinenceonly programs.

Key words

abstinence adolescents sex education contraception evangelicals 

References

  1. Administration for Children and Families. (2006). Community-based abstinence education. Funding opportunity number HHS-2006-ACF-ACYF-AE-0099. Retrieved June 15, 2007, from http://www.acf.hhs. gov/grants/pdf/HHS-2006-ACF-ACYF-AE-0099.pdfGoogle Scholar
  2. Adolescent Family Life Act of 1981, Title XX of the Public Health Service Act.Google Scholar
  3. Alan Guttmacher Institute. (1994). Sex and America’s teenagers. New York: Author.Google Scholar
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health & Committee on Adolescence. (2001). Sexuality education for children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 108, 498–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. American Public Health Association. (2006, November 8). Abstinence and U.S. abstinence-only education policies: Ethical and human rights concerns (Policy statement 200610). Retrieved July 11, 2007, from http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/ default.htm?id=1334 Google Scholar
  6. Balmer, R. H. (2006). Thy kingdom come: How the religious right distorts the faith and threatens America: An evangelical’s lament. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  7. Bearman, P., & Bruckner, H. (2001). Promising the future: Virginity pledges and first intercourse. American Journal of Sociology, 106, 859–912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (1979). Principles of biomedical ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Beil, L. (2007, July 18). Abstinence education faces an uncertain future [Electronic version]. The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2007, from http://www. nytimes.com/2007/07/18/education/18abstain.html Google Scholar
  10. Bozon, M., & Kontula, O. (1998). Sexual initiation and gender in Europe: A cross-cultural analysis of trends in the twentieth century. In M. Hubert, N. Bajos, & T. Sandfort (Eds.), Sexual behaviour and HIV/AIDS in Europe (pp. 37–67). London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bruckner, H., & Bearman, P. (2005). After the promise: The STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges. Journal of Adolescent Health, 36, 271–278.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2003). General comment no. 3: HIV/AIDS and the rights of the child. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  13. Community Based Abstinence Education (2000), Title XI § 1110 of the Social Security Act.Google Scholar
  14. Dailard, C. (2005). Administration tightens rules for abstinence education grants. The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 8(4), 13.Google Scholar
  15. Darroch, J. E., Landry, D. J., & Singh, S. (2000). Changing emphases in sexuality education in U.S. public secondary schools, 1988–1999. Family Planning Perspectives, 32, 204–211, 265.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, Pub. L. No. 91-572 (1970), Title X of the Public Health Service Act.Google Scholar
  17. Finer, L. B. (2007). Trends in premarital sex in the United States, 1954–2003. Public Health Reports, 122, 73–78.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Freedman, L. P. (1995). Censorship and manipulation of reproductive health information. In S. Coliver (Ed.), The right to know: Human rights and access to reproductive health information (pp. 1–37). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  19. Irvine, J. M. (2002). Talk about sex: The battles over sex education in the United States. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  20. Kantor, L. M., & Bacon, W. F. (2002). Abstinence-only programs implemented under welfare reform are incompatible with research on effective sexuality education. Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, 57, 38–40.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Kirby, D. (1997). No easy answers: Research findings on programs to reduce teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.Google Scholar
  22. Kirby, D. (2001). Understanding what works and what doesn’t in reducing adolescent sexual risk-taking. Family Planning Perspectives, 33, 276–281.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Kirby, D. (2007). Emerging answers 2007: Research findings on programs to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.Google Scholar
  24. Kirby, D. B. (2008). The impact of abstinence and comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs on adolescent sexual behavior. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 5(3), 18–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kirby, D., Laris, B., & Rolleri, L. (2007). Sex and HIV education programs: Their impact on sexual behaviors of young people throughout the world. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40, 206–217.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Lindberg, L. D., Santelli, J. S., & Singh, S. (2006). Changes in formal sex education: 1995–2002. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 38, 182–189.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Marsden, G. M. (1980). Fundamentalism and American culture: The shaping of twentieth-century evangelicalism, 1870–1925. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. (1977). Reports and recommendations: Research involving children (No. (OS) 77-0004). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  29. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. (1979). The Belmont Report: Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  30. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2001, July). Workshop summary: Scientific evidence on condom effectiveness for sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  31. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105 (1996), Title V § 510 of the Social Security Act.Google Scholar
  32. Raymond, M., Bogdanovich, L., Brahmi, D., Cardinal, L. J., Fager, G. L., Frattarelli, L. C., et al. (2008). State refusal of federal funding for abstinence-only programs. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 5(3), 44–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rice, J. R. (1941). Bobbed hair, bossy wives, and women preachers. Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers.Google Scholar
  34. Santelli, J., Ott, M. A., Lyon, M., Rogers, J., & Summers, D. (2006). Abstinence-only education policies and programs: A position paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38, 83–87.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Santelli, J. S. (2007). Declaration of John S. Santelli, M.D., M.P.H. Retrieved July 11, 2007, from http:// www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/sexed/29486lgl 20070426.html Google Scholar
  36. Santelli, J. S. (in press). Medical accuracy in sexuality education: Ideology and the scientific process. American Journal of Public Health.Google Scholar
  37. Santelli, J. S., Ott, M., Lyon, M., Rogers, J., Summers, D., & Schleifer, R. (2006). Abstinence and abstinenceonly education: A review of U.S. policies and programs. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38, 72–81.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Scopes v. State, 152 Tenn. 424, 278 S.W. 57 (Tenn. 1925).Google Scholar
  39. Stewart, L., & Stewart, M. (1910–1915). The fundamentals: A testimony to the truth. Chicago: Testimony Publishing.Google Scholar
  40. Teitler, J. O. (2002). Trends in youth sexual initiation and fertility in developed countries: 1960–1995. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 580, 134–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Fortson, K., Quay, L., Wheeler, J., & Clark, M. (2007). Impacts of four Title V, Section 510 abstinence education programs: Final report. Trenton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.Google Scholar
  42. Underhill, K., Montgomery, P., & Operario, D. (2007). Sexual abstinence only programmes to prevent HIV infection in high income countries: Systematic review. British Medical Journal, 335, 248–252.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. United Nations. (1994). Report of the International Conference on Population and Development. New York: Author.Google Scholar
  44. United States House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform—Minority Staff. Special Investigations Division. (2004, December). The content of federally funded abstinence-only education programs. Retrieved July 11, 2007, from http:// oversight.house.gov/documents/20041201102153-50247.pdf Google Scholar
  45. U.S. Census. (2007). Historical time series: Table MS-2. Estimated median age at first marriage, by sex: 1890 to the present. Retrieved August 7, 2007, from http:// www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hh-fam. html#history Google Scholar
  46. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2007). President’s FY 2008 budget appropriations for the Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved August 7, 2007, from http://www.hhs.gov/asl/ testify/2007/03/t20070308k.html Google Scholar
  47. U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2006). Abstinence education: Efforts to assess the accuracy and effectiveness of federally funded programs (No. GAO-07-87). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  48. U.S. Social Security Administration. (2007). Separate program for abstinence education. Sec. 510 (42 U.S.C. 710). Retrieved August 7, 2007, from http://www. ssa.gov/OP Home/ssact/title05/0510.htm Google Scholar
  49. Weithorn, L. A., & Campbell, S. B. (1982). The competency of children and adolescents to make informed treatment decisions. Child Development, 53, 1589–1598.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie M. Kantor
    • 1
    Email author
  • John S. Santelli
    • 1
  • Julien Teitler
    • 2
  • Randall Balmer
    • 3
  1. 1.Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew York
  2. 2.Columbia University School of Social WorkNew York
  3. 3.Department of Religion, Barnard CollegeColumbia UniversityNew York

Personalised recommendations