Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Has Unexpected Benefit: Math Gains?

Most previous studies on abstinence-only programs have focused on sexual behavior, but a study last year indicated that students in abstinence-only education attain higher math grades.

The study, by the American Journal for Health Studies, matched 21 abstinence-only schools against 21 control schools in Indiana and compared results across a range of metrics. The study working on a two-tailed hypothesis was aimed at determining whether abstinence-only programs had any discernible academic effect, whether that be positive or negative. The study showed that being enrolled in these programs did not appear to affect English skills or attendance rates, however a clear improvement in math scores was noted.

This new study shows that abstinence-only programs have produced: better GPAs and improved verbal and numerical aptitude skills. Other associated social benefits are stronger peer relations, positive youth development, and students are aware of the consequences of risky behavior, such as teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

Abstinence-only programs have been in the news lately as Utah has passed a sex education bill requiring that schools which teach sex education do so with abstinence-only instruction materials. This study offers some support to proponents of such programs that far from being the ‘mandate against reality' that Democratic Senator Pat Jones derided the Utah law as, abstinence-only does provide tangible benefits to the student.

Among the positive results, students come away with a deeper respect towards the idea of marriage and of improving their own socioeconomic status. Students of these programs are taught the principles and facts that desperately need to be conveyed to their age group, especially when it comes to child-rearing, priorities, and planning for their future. Abstinence-only programs provide inspirational and rational choices for America's young to be equipped for a life not of regret or hardship, but of hope and responsibility.

However, the benefits of abstinence-only education are still far from being generally accepted; of the 21 states which mandate schools teach sex education, 18 are also required to include contraceptive methods as part of the lesson. Further, more comprehensive studies are expected as the debate continues.

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