It has been reconfirmed -- yet again. Research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute indicates that sexuality education does not encourage teenagers to have sex sooner or to engage in more sexual risk-taking behaviors. As a matter of fact, it delays sex.
In analyzing data from the 2006 to 2008 National Survey of Family Growth, involving 4,691 males and females, ages 15-24, U.S. researchers examined participants' reports of whether they'd received formal sexuality instruction before turning 18 on "how to say no to sex" and/or "methods of birth control."
Those who had received instruction on both contraceptives and abstinence reported being older at first sex than those who had received no such instruction. They also had healthier partnerships, and were likelier to have used rubbers or another form of birth control in having first-time sexual intercourse.
The findings, published in an online edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health, also revealed that females who had received both contraceptive and abstinence information were significantly more likely than those who had received abstinence-only sexuality instruction to use a condom during first sex. (Gals in the abstinence-only group were, however, likelier to delay first intercourse than those who had received zero sex instruction.)
As governments fail to make sexuality education a priority or continue to fund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, we're once again being given scholarly, evidence-based data that indicates the importance of comprehensive sexuality education. This complements Douglas Kirby's 2008 review of evaluation studies examining abstinence, comprehensive, and/or STD/HIV sex education programs. Kirby found that two-thirds of the 48 programs teaching both abstinence and contraceptive use had positive behavioral effects.
So given the good news such studies yield time after time, when will the politicians start to listen? How many research studies like these do we need before policymakers begin funding and supporting comprehensive sexuality education efforts? They've been ignoring the evidence for far too long, continuing to cultivate a culture of sexually ignorant youth, who lack the knowledge and skills necessary to postpone sex or protect themselves.
In bolstering young people's health and well-being, parents, teachers, school administrators, and other important players need to guarantee that youth are accessing medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education. As constituents, all of us need to demand it. Enough is enough -- and that includes having enough data to make our case. Contact your representatives today, letting them know that you support holistic approaches to sexuality education -- and that you expect them, in their funding priorities and policymaking, to do the same.