Abstinence-only sex education programs have had \"little impact\" on Texas teenagers\' behavior, according to an ongoing study funded by the…. Texas Department of Health and presented to state officials last week, the Dallas Morning News reports. Buzz Pruitt, professor of health and kinesiology at Texas A&M University, and colleagues examined five abstinence-only sex education programs at more than 24 schools across Texas. For the study, junior high and high school students filled out an anonymous 10-page questionnaire on their sexual behavior. The study found that 23% of ninth-grade girls reported having had sexual intercourse before they received abstinence education, a percentage below the national average. However, the study found that 28% of the same girls reported having had sexual intercourse after receiving abstinence education, a percentage that is \"closer to that of their peers across the state,\" according to the Morning News. In addition, the study found that the percentage of ninth-grade boys reporting having had sexual intercourse remained unchanged before and after abstinence education; however, the percentage of 10th grade boys reporting sexual activity \"jumped\" from 24% to 39% after participating in abstinence education, according to the Morning News. \"We didn\'t find strong evidence of program effect,\" Pruitt said, adding, \"We didn\'t find what many would like for us to find.\"
Study Flaws, Reaction
Pruitt cautioned that the study does have \"flaws\" and that others should not make \"overarching conclusions\" based on the data, according to the Morning News. One problem with the study was that it lacked a comparison group -- a group of students similar to the group studied but who did not receive abstinence education, according to Pruitt. Without a comparison group, the researchers cannot say whether or not the students would have engaged in more sexual activity if they had not received abstinence education, according to the Morning News. Mike Young of the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, who helped develop the abstinence education program \"Sex Can Wait,\" said that there are a \"bunch\" of different abstinence curricula and that \"we don\'t know what their effectiveness is,\" according to the Morning News. \"Funding should be contingent on a very solid evaluation program,\" Young said. However, some researchers studying abstinence education believe that \"science is losing to politics,\" according to the Morning News. \"We need to get over our fear of research,\" Pruitt said, adding, \"It does bother me that we don\'t have the kind of respect for research and evaluation that this area deserves. There seems to be a political fear of the truth.\" Harry Wilson, associate commissioner of the HHS Family and Youth Services Bureau, said concerns about evaluation of the federally funded abstinence education programs are a \"fair criticism,\" according to the Morning News. The federal government currently is conducting a multiyear study on abstinence programs and plans to publish a report in 2006. Wilson said that each agency needs to \"balance the cost of funding programs against the cost of study,\" according to the Morning News. \"How much do we evaluate, and how much public money should go to fix the issue?\" Wilson asked (Beil, Dallas Morning News, 1/29).
Several million youths have participated in the more than 100 federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs since 1999, when such programs began. Congress in November 2004 approved a $388 billion omnibus spending measure (HR 4818) for fiscal year 2005 that includes about $168 million for abstinence education programs. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) in December 2004 said that the government should review federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs in response to a report released earlier in December 2004 by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). According to the report, which was based on Waxman\'s staff\'s review of 13 of the most commonly used abstinence-only sex education curricula, 11 of the programs contain \"unproved claims, subjective conclusions or outright falsehoods regarding reproductive health, gender traits and when life begins\" (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 12/6/04).
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