Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner


  • Linda C. BaumannEmail author
  • Alyssa Karel
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_77


Abstinence is defined as the restraint from indulging in bodily activities that are experienced as giving pleasure. In medical settings this usually refers to drugs, alcohol, and most often sexual activity. Depending on the perspective, abstinence from sex can mean that all sexual activities are avoided, but it can also mean that only sexual intercourse is avoided. Abstinence is also considered a form of contraception; in fact it is the only form of contraception that prevents pregnancy with a 0% failure rate. Abstinence also prevents the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

In recent years the issue between abstinence-only sex education and comprehensive, or abstinence plus sex education has been widely debated. An abstinence-only sex education program focuses on promoting abstinence from sex until marriage due to the possibility of pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Morality is also discussed as a driving factor to remain abstinent. This...

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References and Readings

  1. About D.A.R.E. (2010). D.A.R.E.. Retrieved December 17, 2010, from http://www.dare.com/home/about_dare.asp
  2. Abstinence. (2010). Planned parenthood. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/abstinence-4215.htm
  3. Abstinence and Sex Education. (2010). Avert. Retrieved August 25, 2010, from http://www.avert.org/abstinence.htm
  4. Kohler, P. K., Manhart, L. E., & Lafferty, W. E. (2008). Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47(5), 344–351.Google Scholar
  5. Ott, M. A., & Santelli, J. S. (2007). Abstinence and abstinence-only education. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 19(5), 446–452.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Satcher, D. (2001). Prevention and intervention. Youth violence, A report of the surgeon general. Retrieved March 20, fromhttp://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/youthviolence/chapter5/sec4.html#IneffectivePrimaryPrevention

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA