The Effectiveness of Sex Education Programs in Virginia Schools: Teenage Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Disease Rates: A Comparison of Counties
Valimont, Amanda Story
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There has been little scientific evidence to suggest that abstinence-only-until-marriage education programs are effective in preventing or reducing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. There is also little scientific evidence to suggest that comprehensive sex education programs are as or more effective in preventing or reducing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease than their abstinence-only counterpart. The following study compares the teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates among minors in Virginia that participate in abstinence-only programs with rates among minors participating in comprehensive sex education programs. I hypothesize that counties implementing comprehensive sex education programs in schools will typically have lower pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates among minors than counties implementing abstinence-only education programs. I test these hypotheses with data on the 16 Virginia counties and county equivalents which could be verified as having either comprehensive or abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools during 1998-2003. The data confirm the hypotheses. On average, comprehensive program counties showed greater declines in pregnancy rates among females aged 15-17 than abstinence-only program counties. Comprehensive counties experienced declines in Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates among males and females aged 15-17, whereas abstinence-only counties' Gonorrhea and Chlamydia rates increased. These findings underscore the need for statewide -- indeed, nationwide -- public reporting of school systems' sex education program types to permit a more thorough comparison and evaluation of program outcomes. In the meantime, these results challenge Virginia advocates of abstinence-only education programs to empirically defend their claims.
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