Halpin, G. and Halpin, G., Auburn University, USA
Adolescent pregnancy rates are higher in the United States than in any other industrialized nation in the world. Further, teens are contracting sexually transmitted diseases at an alarming rate. Add other psychological, social, and emotional effects of teen sexual activity, and the health risk becomes very obvious. To combat these problems, the U.S. Congress authorized in 1996 $250 million for abstinence-only education grants. In a program funded by one of these grants, seventh- and ninth-grade students were taught lessons from a modified Sex Respect curriculum (N >475 seventh graders) and Abstinence Only: Send a Clear Message (N >450 ninth graders). Before intervention and again after, the seventh- and ninth-grade participants responded to items on the Youth Survey designed specifically to assess their beliefs and attitudes toward health-related program priorities, their abstinence-specific self-efficacy, and their self- reported sexual activity and intentions. Multivariate analyses revealed statistically significant programmatic effects which supported the research hypothesis that abstinence-only sex education programs can be an effective means to increase teens' self-regulative skills and their personal sense of efficacy so that they may be more likely to exercise personal control over their sexual behavior. Associated social, psychological, and health gains are discussed.