Parents: Don't Give Up on Abstinence Education
Filed under: Opinions
Let's face it. Polls and studies can be easily manipulated. In Amy Hatch's recent column, "Abstinence Education to Blame for Rise in Teen Pregnancy Rates," she cited a study by the Guttmacher Institute that concluded that pregnancy rates rose as a result of abstinence programs.
This month, the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine released a study that contradicts those findings. The APAM study on 662 African American 7th and 8th graders found that those enrolled in abstinence-only programs were less likely to engage in sexual activity.
Instead of arguing over whose poll is right, I propose we consider something most parents can probably agree on: Abstinent teens are happier and more likely to succeed in school.
Do moms and dads really need a study to tell them that teens who abstain from sex until at least the age of 18 are more likely to go to and finish college? Plenty of studies confirm this, but we also know from our own observations in high school that teen sex and high academic achievement are rarely compatible.
Sex is a powerful force that intensifies emotions and attachments. It can make a high school breakup feel more like a mini divorce. Now imagine doing that a couple times over a four-year period. No wonder sexually active teens report higher incidences of depression.
Homework, SAT scores and resume-building service projects can easily take a backseat to worries about adult-oriented trivialities like sexy lingerie or the far more distracting pregnancy or STD scare. After all, no contraception is as full proof as abstinence. Needless to say, none of this is conducive to being academically focused. Plus, common sense tell us that the parent of a sexually active teen weilds less influence over their child which can drastically impact their decisions and the course of their future.
The same way we warn our kids about the dangers of smoking (as opposed to giving them filters for their cigs), adults ought to discourage rather than enable teens to have sex at a time when so much of their future is at stake. Kids deserve to be told the truth about the academic, economic (college graduates earn nearly half a million dollars more than nongraduates over a lifetime), and emotional tradeoffs of high school sex -- even if they don't always heed our advice.
Neurologists tell us that the teenage brain is not fully developed or able to processes consequences, which is why some teens will have sex despite our admonitions and well-intentioned abstinence programs. But this knife cuts both ways. Their underdeveloped brains are also the reason why they are notoriously poor practitioners of contraception despite having condoms and birth control pills practically thrown at them in schools.
President Obama recently eliminated abstinence education in schools and now we learn that Planned Parenthood International is pushing intensive sex education for children as young as 10 (which includes discussions on the "pleasures of sex").. But we sell our kids short when we allow the culture, vested organizations like Planned Parenthood, and government bureaucrats to send them the message that pregnancy and STDs are the only consequences of teen sex that they need to be concerned about. As parents, we cannot lose sight of our primary objective: to raise happy (and yes, moral) kids and to maximize their opportunity to succeed in life. When that is the goal, abstinence education looks pretty darn good.
Related: Should Sex Sell Abstinence?
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.