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Evaluation Reveals Flaws in Texas'

A state-sponsored evaluation of Texas' Title V programs completed in September 2004 and released this month, revealed an increase in sexual activity following the implementation of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Texas. The Texas Department of State Health Services contracted with Texas A&M University to conduct a multi-phase evaluation designed to increase understanding of the state's Title V "abstinence education" program.

Five "abstinence education" contractors in Texas volunteered to participate in this phase of the study. Those students participating in these contractors' programs who received parental permission responded to questionnaires prior to participation and directly following participation in an abstinence-only-until-marriage program.

Among other factors, the evaluation assessed student's sexual behaviors following their participation in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and sought to examine "factors that have been previously identified as associated with adolescents' intention to remain abstinent…and to detect whether abstinence education programs impact these factors and/or youth's self-reported abstinent behavior."1

Analysis of the data revealed that both the middle and high school study groups showed "no significant changes" in the percentage of students "pledging not to have sex before marriage."2 In addition, the analysis revealed that the percentage of students reporting having ever engaged in sexual intercourse increased for nearly all ages between 13 and 17 by post-test. Notably, prior to participating in an abstinence-only-until-marriage program, 23 percent of ninth grade girls had engaged in sexual intercourse; following the program, 29 percent of the same age group reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. In addition, tenth grade boys reporting sexual intercourse increased from 24 percent to 39 percent following abstinence-only-until-marriage instruction.3

The report notes that abstinence-only-until-marriage "programs appear to be operating without solid, statistical evidence of their effectiveness."4 A co-investigator for the study explained, "most of what we've discovered shows there's no evidence the large amount of money spent is having an effect."5 He went on to say, "we didn't see any strong indications these programs were having an impact in the direction desired…these programs seem to be much more concerned about politics than kids, and we need to get over that."6

The report has gained attention as President Bush's Fiscal Year 2006 Budget calls for an 18.5% increase in funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programming nationwide. The US government continues to increase funding for such programs, despite growing evidence of their ineffectiveness. A number of states in addition to Texas, including Arizona, Kansas, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, evaluated their Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and also found them to be ineffective. 7

Bill Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. stated, "With this study it is becoming even more clear, that ideologically driven programs get a pass when it comes to performance standards, and are allowed to continue despite a negative impact on young people." Smith continued, "this study conducted in the President's home state shows that these programs are failing and yet he still sees fit to continue the political gravy train at the expense of the health and well-being of our nation's youth."

References

  1. Patricia Goodson, et al. Abstinence Education Evaluation Phase 5: Technical Report (College Station, TX: Department of Health & Kinesiology - Texas A&M University, 2004), 12.
  2. Ibid., 170, 172. Emphasis included in original document.
  3. "Texas Teens Increased Sex After Abstinence Program," Reuters, 2 February 2005, accessed 17 February 2005, http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20050131/hl_nm/health_abstinence_texas_dc.
  4. Patricia Goodson, et al., 192.
  5. "Texas Teens Increased Sex After Abstinence Program."
  6. Ibid.
  7. Fact Sheet: What the Research Says…, (DC: SIECUS, 2005) accessed 15 March 2005, http://www.siecus.org/policy/research_says.pdf.

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