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Penn study suggests abstinence-only approach has benefits

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

For years, the federal government poured money into abstinence -only, sex education programs – while some experts complained bitterly that abstinence-only courses don’t protect children from teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

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Now a new study from health researchers at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that abstinence only programs can help young teens say “no” to sex, at least for a while.

John Jemmott is professor of communication and psychiatry at Penn’s School of Medicine.

Those who received the abstinence only intervention were less likely to have sex for the first time, over the 24 month follow up period, compared to those in the control group where they learned about chronic disease prevention. So in essense it prevented the onset of sexual activity for two years.

The research was a study of about 600 sixth and seventh graders in Philadelphia.

Jemmott says there has been ample science to support comprehensive sex ed classes that include instruction on both contraception and abstinence, but very little data to support abstinence only programs. He says his study begins to fill the gap.

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