Let's get real about sex ed - FamilyEducation

Let's get real about sex ed

January 07,2009
Lindsay Hutton

According to the CDC, the most recent birth statistics show that teen births have increased in over half of U.S. states. Mississippi now has the highest teen pregnancy rate – 68.4% versus a U.S. average of 41.9% per 1,000 births – and nine other states have rates over 50%. Isn't it time to provide our kids with more than abstinence-only education?

No doubt we can all agree that preventing teen pregnancy is a worthwhile goal. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teen pregnancy is closely linked to a host of other critical social issues: poverty and income, overall child well-being, out-of-wedlock births, responsible fatherhood, health issues, education, child welfare, and other risky behavior. There are also substantial public costs associated with adolescent childbearing.

In April 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a study that showed abstinence-only education has had little or no impact on whether teens have sex, or on how many sexual partners they have. Another study, published in the latest issue (Jan. 2009) of Pediatrics, found that teenagers who make "virginity pledges" to remain abstinent until marriage are just as likely as teens who do not make such pledges to have premarital sex – and are less likely to use condoms and other birth control methods. It would appear that abstinence-only programs are actually backfiring.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that adolescents be given sex-education programs that address both abstinence and birth control. Research has shown that giving kids information about both options does not increase their sexual activity, but for sexually active teens, it promotes and increases the proper use of birth control methods.

What are your views on this issue? We'd like to know!