I absolutely love laugh at loathe self-reporting in experiments where the subjects know the purpose of the study. This is part of the reason I tend to not put much weight on sex education studies which look at behaviors, but they are still interesting when they get abused. It is much more interesting to look at disease rates, abortion rates, and pregnancy rates to judge the efficacy of a program. (Kind of difficult to deny having sex under these circumstances, although it was probably done in ancient times and does exist among some species-no mammals are known to do this naturally)
Behavioral and psychological studies tend to require a bit of trickery on the part of the experimenter, making sex educational studies a bit difficult to trust, since it’s a little easy (even for the students) to understand the point of these, particularly when measuring self-reporting. More importantly, however, it is important to realize what demographic this study is focused on. The demographic is 10-14 year old students. This means that a 29% rate of sexual intercourse in this demographic is a little high for the control group (a previous study found 17% by age 14 without narrowing by demographic). This indicates an underlying issue which could be being compensated for in the abstinence-only education or activities associated with it which is not being targeted in the control group (which was just taught about not smoking). Wikipedia and Catholic.org indicate many misunderstandings (intentional or not) concerning this research paper exist. Namely, the difference between experimental and control group MODEL ESTIMATES (33% and 48% respectively) of sexual activity versus observed numbers (20% and 29% respectively). The model estimates seem a bit high to me, considering all studies I’ve seen indicate much lower numbers (closer-usually lower-to the observed numbers for these ages).
What this study isn’t:
- It isn’t a “game changing” study; it just indicates that abstinence centric education may be useful in certain demographics
- It isn’t saying 52% of kids would have sex with no sex education (29% did in the control group, far from the 52% the Catholics.org article cites)
- It isn’t saying all used models of abstinence-only education are right!
- It doesn’t address the previous studies which indicate comprehensive sex education greatly decreases pregnancy and STD rates, nor does it explain this discrepancy
I’m not saying including abstinence as part of a comprehensive sexual education curriculum isn’t vital. Indeed, much can be said for explaining that this is the most effective way of preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. I would actually state that abstinence-centered techniques should probably be taught at the age group this study targets (11-13 year olds) with emphasis on the consequences associated with sex. I would especially note that the abstinence education in this study focused on delaying sexual intercourse for a few years rather and not demonizing contraceptive use other than the “wait until marriage/condoms are bad” mantra repeated by religiously motivated individuals.