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Scientific Evaluations of Approaches to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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Publication Date: May 2007

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Topic: Social conditions (Sex)


The long-awaited experimentally designed evaluation of abstinence-only education programs, commissioned by Congress in 1997, indicates that young persons who participated in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Title V Abstinence Education block grant program were no more likely than other young persons to abstain from sex.

The evaluation conducted by Mathematica Policy, Inc. found that program participants had just as many sexual partners as nonparticipants, had sex at the same median age as nonparticipants, and were just as likely to use contraception as participants.

For many analysts and researchers, the study confirms that a comprehensive sex education curriculum with an abstinence message and information about contraceptives and decision-making skills is a better approach to preventing teen pregnancy. Others maintain that the evaluation examined only four programs for elementary and middle school students, and is thereby inconclusive. Separate experimentally designed evaluations of comprehensive sexual education programs found that some comprehensive programs, including contraception information, decisionmaking skills, and peer pressure strategies, were successful in delaying sexual activity, improving contraceptive use, and/or preventing teen pregnancy. This report will not be updated.


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2007-05-01 version