Comprehensive sex education might lead to less teen pregnancy, says a new research which found no indications that such knowledge boosts the levels of sexual intercourse or sexually transmitted diseases.
The study, led by Pamela Kohler, a program manager at the University of Washington in Seattle, stated that it is not harmful to teach teens about birth control in addition to abstinence.
"It is not harmful to teach teens about birth control in addition to abstinence," Kohler said.
The findings were based on the results of the 2002 national survey, which involved 1,719 teens, and focused on heterosexual teens ages 15 to 19.
The researchers found that one in four teens received abstinence-only education. Nine percent, particularly the poor and those in rural areas, received no sex education at all. The other two-thirds received comprehensive instruction with discussion of birth control.
Teens who received comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to report becoming pregnant or impregnating someone than those who received no sex education. The likelihood of pregnancy was 30 percent lower among those who had abstinence-only education compared to those who received no sex education, but the researchers deemed that number statistically insignificant because few teens fit into the categories that researchers analyzed.
The findings support comprehensive sex education, Kohler said.
"There was no evidence to suggest that abstinence-only education decreased the likelihood of ever having sex or getting pregnant," she said.
Don Operario, Ph.D., a professor at Oxford University in England, said the study provides "further compelling evidence" about the value of comprehensive sex education and the "ineffectiveness" of the abstinence-only approach.
The study is published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.