Study: Abstinence Programs Lower Teen Pregnancy

Teens who participated in sexual abstinence campaigns found to have delayed having sex eighteen months longer on average than those who were not in the program.
( [email protected] ) Sep 06, 2004 04:48 PM EDT

According to a new study released last April by the Heritage Foundation, programs like True Love Waits, significantly reduce the rate of out-of-wedlock births.

True Love Waits of Lifeway Christian Resources is a ministry that challenges young people to abstain from sexual activity until marriage. Participants of True Love Waits are required to sign the commitment card which reads “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.”

According to the study, young women who take a virginity pledge are at least 40 percent less likely to have a child out of wedlock and 12 times more likely to be virgins when they marry, compared to young women who do not make such a pledge.

The study's findings about out-of-wedlock births have very significant social implications, said Kirk Johnson, a senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation.

"Some 1.35 million children are born out of wedlock annually, representing roughly one-third of all births in the United States," he said. "Children raised by single parents are seven times more likely to live in poverty than are children raised in intact homes, and they are much more likely to be dependent on welfare programs and to suffer from a wide range of other social maladies."

"Young people who make deliberate public pledges to remain virgins are likely to substantially delay the initiation of sexual activity, have fewer sexual partners and are more likely to marry," Johnson said.

While adjusting for differences in race, income, family structure, religiosity and other background conditions, the rate of out-of-wedlock births dropped 50 percent -- 29 percent of young women who had not made an abstinence pledge had a child out of wedlock, contrasted with only about 14 percent of young women who had made a pledges.

The study indicated that teens who participated in sexual abstinence campaign delay having sex a year and a half longer on average than those who are not in the program.

The study also showed that parental involvement plays critical roles in reinforcing their children to remain sexually pure until marriage. Because True Love Waits campaigns typically are conducted in a church setting, teenagers are supported in their pledges by parents as well as a community of caring adults and peers.