SMH: Virginity pledge no guarantee

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December 30, 2008

TEENAGERS in the United States who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control, a study published yesterday says.

The new analysis of data from a large US survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge”, but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behaviour,” said Janet Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the journal Pediatrics. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.”

Condom use was about 10 percentage points lower for people who broke the pledge. They were six points less likely to use any contraception.

The study is the latest in a series raising questions about programs that focus on encouraging abstinence until marriage. The new analysis goes further by focusing on teens who had similar values about sex and other issues before they took a virginity pledge.

The findings come as Congress and the incoming Obama administration are about to reconsider the provision of more than $US176 million ($258 million) in annual funding for abstinence-based programs.

The Washington Post

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