Friday, December 21, 2007

Lack Of Sex Education Found To Help Teenagers Delay Sex

"Sex education found to help teenagers delay sex", according to a new CDC study. Great news, no?

Except, when you read the Reuters article you have this:

The researchers did not evaluate the content of sex education programs, including whether students were taught about contraception or about abstinence only.


Huh? Either Reuters is misreporting or the quality of research at the CDC is seriously lacking.

If you don't know whether the programs you're evaluating do, in fact, teach sex ed (comprehensive programs), or not (abstinence-only programs), you can't draw any valid conclusions about the effects of formal sex education on the timing of teenagers' sexual debut.

For all you know, most, or even all, of the programs you evaluated were abstinence-only programs, in which case the finding, and the headline, would be "Lack of sex education found to help teenagers delay sex."

If you have access to the study, please share; it would be interesting to find out who the clueless culprit is, Reuters or the CDC.

UPDATE: Here's the abstract, thanks to reader lyrl.

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3 Comments:

At 7:27 PM, Blogger lyrl said...

Many schools don't address sex in the classroom at all. Not even to teach abstinence.

I don't have access to the study, but I believe their conclusion is that talking about sex at school results in more responsible sexual behavior vs. not talking about sex at school, regardless of content of said talk.

The abstract is at http://www.jahonline.org/article/PIIS1054139X07003254/abstract

It explains the researchers were using data from the National Survey of Family Growth, which was not designed to be studied this way. They saved money by using an already-completed survey, but lost out on opportunities to ask more directed questions.

 
At 4:23 AM, Blogger ema said...

lyrl,

Thank you for the link.

While still not clear, it looks like the researchers define "formal sex education" as:

...education...intended to provide youth with the information and skills needed to make healthy and informed decisions about sex.

So, their assertion is that not just talking about sex [abstinence-only and comprehensive sex ed], but talking about sex in a certain way [comprehensive sex ed] appears to effectively reduce adolescent sexual risk behaviors when provided before sexual initiation.

Since the researchers didn't have any information on the actual content of the programs, I say their conclusion is a reach.

 
At 5:01 AM, OpenID Rachel said...

I have access to the full text (and have a bit about it here, and the authors actually explicitly state that they cannot make any conclusions about abstinence-only or comprehensive sex ed. The define formal sex education as "any sex education that was provided in schools, in churches, or by community organizations. Exposure to sex education was coded as 'ever' received sex education on either 'how to say no' to sex or methods of birth control versus 'never' received any education on these two topics."

So, yes, they're considering abstinence only to be "sex ed" - I think you raise an interesting point that maybe it shouldn't be called "sex ed" in the first place!

 

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