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Argument: Abstinence-only discourages youth sex and risk-taking

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Supporting quotations

Robert Rector. "The Effectiveness of Abstinence Education Programs in Reducing Sexual Activity Among Youth". Heritage. 8 Apr. 2002 - Correlation Between Sexual Activity and Other High-Risk Behaviors

Research from a variety of sources indicates a correlation between sexual activity among adolescents and teens and the likelihood of engaging in other high-risk behaviors, such as tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use.

A study reported in Pediatrics magazine found that sexually active boys aged 12 through 16 are four times more likely to smoke and six times more likely to use alcohol than are those who describe themselves as virgins. Among girls in this same age cohort, those who are sexually active are seven times more likely to smoke and 10 times more likely to use marijuana than are those who are virgins.12 The report describes sexual activity as a "significant associate of other health-endangering behaviors" and notes an increasing recognition of the interrelation of risk behaviors. Research by the Alan Guttmacher Institute likewise finds a correlation between risk behaviors among adolescents and sexual activity; for example, teenagers who use alcohol, tobacco, and/or marijuana regularly are more likely to be sexually active.13


Melissa G. Pardue. "More Evidence of the Effectiveness of Abstinence Education Programs". Heritage Foundation. 5 May 2005 - A new study by Dr. Robert Lerner published in the Institute for Youth Development’s peerreviewed journal Adolescent & Family Health bolsters the case for the effectiveness of abstinence programs in reducing teens’ high-risk behaviors, including sexual activity, smoking, and alcohol and drug use. The study evaluates the effectiveness of the Best Friends abstinence education program and finds that students in it are significantly less likely than their peers to engage in any of these high-risk behaviors.2 This important research joins ten other evaluations that have also showed positive effects of abstinence programs.3

According to the study, released in April 2005, junior-high and middle school-aged girls who participated in the Best Friends program, when compared to their peers who did not participate, were:

  • Six-and-a-half times more likely to remain sexually abstinent;
  • Nearly two times more likely to abstain from drinking alcohol;
  • Eight times more likely to abstain from drug use; and
  • Over two times more likely to refrain from smoking.4

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