You may have heard of a study last month on the effectiveness of abstinence pledges. it was widely reported on, this article in the Washington Post covers the gist of the reporting:
Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.
That’s what was heard over and over. Abstinence programs don’t work, we were told, why are we doing them?
As a Christian parent of one teen age girl and two others approaching puberty at light speed, I had two reactions.
First was a sigh of resignation of the state of the world we live in. Teen sex is a fact of life, almost celebrated in TV & movies. It stinks, but you’ve gotta live somewhere and Mars isn’t open for business yet.
Second was to carry on with what I had already been doing, namely a full on assault against the world’s full court press on my girls’ values. I have taught them that waiting is God’s way, it’s the best way and that all around them their friends and the media will be acting otherwise. The odds may be stacked against me, but there’s absolutely no way that I’m going to sit by and let it happen. It’s inevitable, the studies say, but I follow a God who says otherwise.
Imagine my (lack of) surprise when yesterday I read a Wall Street Journal opinion piece debunking the reporting on this study:
[T]he only way the study’s author, Janet Elise Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins University, could reach such results was by comparing teens who take a virginity pledge with a very small subset of other teens: those who are just as religious and conservative as the pledge-takers
In other words, the study compared conservative, religious teens inclined toward waiting until marriage with conservative, religious teens inclined toward waiting until marriage who had actually taken a pledge to do so and found no difference between the groups.
Dr. Bernadine Healy, health editor for U.S. News & World Report, examined the results and found “virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general — a fact that many media reports have missed cold.” And there’s more:
What Dr. Healy was getting at is that the pledge itself is not what distinguishes these kids from most other teenagers. The real difference is their more conservative and religious home and social environment. As she notes, when you compare both groups in this study with teens at large, the behavioral differences are striking. Here are just a few:
– These teens generally have less risky sex, i.e., fewer sexual partners.
– These teens are less likely to have a teenage pregnancy, or to have friends who use drugs.
– These teens have less premarital vaginal sex.
– When these teens lose their virginity they tend to do so at age 21 — compared to 17 for the typical American teen.
– And very much overlooked, one out of four of these teens do in fact keep the pledge to remain chaste — amid much cheap ridicule and just about zero support outside their homes or churches.
So teen parents rejoice, it turns out that God knows what He’s talking about after all.
HT: Brant Hansen