Tuesday, February 2, 2010

An abstinence-only program that might work

This study discusses an 8-hour abstinence-only program for 6th and 7th graders that, it says, reduced the number of girls who self-reported two years later that they had had sex by about a third. They compared these kids with others who had a safer-sex program that targeted increased condom use and a general heatlh class.

I see two big differences between this and other abstinence-only programs:
  • The kids were in middle school rather than high school.
  • The pitch wasn't to save yourself until marriage; it concentrated on reasons a 12-year-old shouldn't be having sex yet.
With all the usual caveats about replication, this sounds plausible to me, both the target audience and the pitch.

I have mixed feelings about teen-age sex. One the one hand, hormones will be hormones, kids mature earlier now than they did in the 1950s (at least in California; it may be different among the !Kung), and it's better for them to be having sex with each other than with their teachers or creepy old guys that hang out at the park.

On the other hand, kids vary, and while there are probably some who start having sex at menarche and are mature enough or lucky enough to not get screwed up in the head, I doubt there are many, and besides that, it's a hell of a distraction from algebra, so we should probably make it a policy that 12-year-olds shouldn't be having sex, even with each other. Does that make me a geezer (or geezerette)? So be it.

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