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Results of a study on abstinence

In 2008 a national study was conducted on the value of  abstinence education. In looking over the summary of the study, here are the Key Findings


  • Males and black/Hispanic adolescents expressed less restrictive views about sex.
  • Older adolescents were more conservative about sex in general, but had less restrictive attitudes about their own behavior.


  • Conservative parent attitudes were strongly associated with conservative adolescent attitudes.
  • However, higher levels of parent-adolescent communication about sex were not associated with any differences in adolescent attitudes.


  • Adolescents with more conservative peers reported more conservative views.
  • Higher levels of peer-adolescent communication about sexual values were associated with less conservative adolescent attitudes.
  • Peers were more influential for male adolescents than for females.


  • Though adolescent participation in classes/programs where messages about waiting to have sex until marriage were delivered increased parent-adolescent communication levels, it had no influence on adolescent attitudes.

According to Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Foundation. the Department of Health and Human Services is withholding the full results of the study.  According to Huber, “The taxpayer-supported survey from 2008 found that around 70 percent of parents and their teenagers believed that teens should wait until marriage to have sex.”

While I have only looked at the summary, it seems that Huber is not reporting the full facts.  What the summary shows is that almost 40% of adolescents strongly agree and another 20% somewhat agree that sex before marriage is against their value and that sex is something that only married people should do. Parental figures for the same questions were 50% strongly agree and another 20% somewhat agree. I guess that is where Huber gets the 70% figure.  And it should be noted that the abstinence program improved communication between parents and kids but did not improve adolescent attitudes.

Let’s be honest about the facts and not fudge them to prove our point.  We don’t need to do that as Christians. Reminds me of the book Damned Lies and Statistics that I am slowly reading. According to author Joel Best, activists sometimes misuse statistics because they understand that “big numbers indicate big problems” and people will not get motivated to act unless there is a big problem.  And so the temptation to use statistics to demonstrate that there is a big problem or in this case a big solution to a proven problem.

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