Most Parents Want Abstinence Message in Schools

( [email protected] ) May 08, 2007 11:50 AM EDT

Parents prefer abstinence education over comprehensive sex education by a 2 to 1 margin, a new poll found.

A month before current funding for abstinence education is scheduled to expire, a new Zogby poll revealed 80 percent of parents think sex education in public schools should place more emphasis on promoting abstinence over contraceptive use. Moreover, 90 percent think it is important for schools to emphasize abstaining from sex given the high number of STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) among teens.

"There’s so much misinformation out there about what abstinence education is," said Valerie Huber, executive director of National Abstinence Education Association, which commissioned the poll, according to Citizen Link. "We were convinced that once parents understood the real content of abstinence education, they would overwhelmingly support abstinence.”

The study found that once parents understand what abstinence education actually teaches, six out of 10 parents would rather their child receive abstinence education over comprehensive sex education. Only three out of 10 prefer the latter.

Most parents actually reject comprehensive sex education. According to the poll, two out of three parents think that the importance of the "wait to have sex" message ends up being lost when programs demonstrate and encourage the use of contraception. Over half of parents think that promoting and demonstrating condom usage encourages sexual activity and 80 percent think teens will not use a condom every single time.

"Parents are starting to see through the lies," said Linda Klepacki, analyst for sexual health for Focus on the Family Action, alluding to misinformation in the media, according to Citizen Link.

A recent study by Mathematic Policy Research Inc. on sexual abstinence programs claimed that both the group of students who participated in the programs and those who did not showed hardly any difference in the number of sexual partners, the age they first had sex, and their rates of unprotected sex. Nearly half of both student groups remained abstinent, the study on 2,057 youths found.

But Dr. Janice Crouse, director and senior fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute, noted several flaws in the study. She drew attention to the age of the children in the study, pointing out that those who were in the abstinence programs were as young as nine years old. Moreover, there was no follow-up to the abstinence message they were taught until around six years later.

Crouse also added that if "values," such as commitment, love and intimacy, are omitted from the programs then "the teaching implies that casual teen sex has no lasting consequences as long as the teens use a condom."

The contested study came out in April, months before Congress was scheduled to consider renewing a block grant program, known as Title V, for abstinence education.

Six out of 10 parents think more government funding should be given to abstinence education over comprehensive sex education while only two out of 10 want more funding for the latter, the Zogby poll found.

Rather than teaching contraceptive use, 90 percent of parents think teens should be taught how often condoms fail to prevent pregnancy based upon typical use as well as the limitations of condoms in preventing specific STDs.

Also, eight in 10 parents support the core teaching components of abstinence education such as the benefits of renewed abstinence to sexually experienced students, developing healthy relationships to improve their chances for a healthy future marriage, and increasing self-worth and self-control as methods for reducing premarital sexual activity.

The overwhelming majority of parents agree that being sexually abstinent is best for their child's health and future.

Results are based on a telephone survey of 1,002 interviews with parents of children aged 10-16 across the country.