NASHVILLE, TN. -- A new study, conducted by Columbia and Yale Universities, found that teenage virginity pledges are seldom kept. Richard Ross, one of the founders of True Love Waits (TLW), said that students in the TLW have an advantage over many secular, school based abstinence programs.
Ross said that only after weeks of study and discussion sessions do the students sign pledge cards, unlike the hundreds of other programs which have only three or four sessions. These pledges are made in a public ceremony with their family, friends, and a community of faith supporting their promise. Even after promising they receive guidance and support from their leaders who they see in their daily lives.
"And most important of all, teenagers make their promise to God Himself rather than a notebook," Ross stated. He continued to say that all these variables are a part of the likeliness that the student will keep their "purity intact."
The study that was conducted showed that nearly 88 percent of those who pledged abstinence reported having sexual intercourse before marriage. From the data collected from 12,000 teenagers ages ranging from 12 to 18, also concluded that the pledges caused the teenagers to marry earlier.
The study did, however, recognize the fact that there was a delay in starting sexual intercourse by 18 months and to have fewer sexual partners for pledgers, compared with non-pledgers.
Ross acknowledged that there were some TLW teenagers who broke their promises. "People are fallible. But the fact that a few default on their mortgage doesn't mean we should stop asking people to sign house notes," he commented."The fact that some break their wedding vows does not mean we should stop holding high the sanctity of those promises. If we stop holding high the highest values before the young, the entire generation will descend into an immoral morass that would lead to personal and cultural tragedies beyond measure."
The study also found that the rate of STDs were similar in both pledgers and non-pledgers. "It's difficult to simultaneously prepare for sex and say you're not going to have sex," said Peter Bearman, chair of Columbia's sociology department and coauthor of the study, according to the Associated Press. "The message is really simple: 'Just say no' may work in the short term but doesn't work in the long term." The study showed that those who couldn't keep the promises were less likely to use contraceptives after breaking those promises.
Ross was troubled by the fact that those who broke promises were less likely to use contraception, increasing the risk for STDs or pregnancy.
"Even so, I cannot possibly agree with the voices calling for us to put a condom in the billfold or purse of every pledger," he said. "That flies in the face of all we know about adolescent developmental psychology.... Handing a condom to a pledger simply says, 'We adults know you can't do this and we know you are destined to live like a barnyard animal."
"Signing a pledge card does not mean you are magically protected," said Jimmy Hester, spokesperson of TLW. But, Hester continued, "True Love Waits is more effective than most abstinence programs that use the signing of commitment cards because it adds an element they lack -- a commitment to God."
TLW will work this fall to ask communities to continuously send the message of abstinence to teenagers. This new program "True Love Waits Takes the Town" will have emphasis on health organizations, businesses, educational institutes, government and churches to work together in providing abstinence education.