Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs. Summary of Impact Results

04/13/2007

The main objective of Title V, Section 510 abstinence education programs is to teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage. The impact results from the four selected programs show no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence. About half of all study youth had remained abstinent at the time of the final follow-up survey, and program and control group youth had similar rates of sexual abstinence. Moreover, the average age at first sexual intercourse and the number of sexual partners were almost identical for program and control youth.

Some policymakers and health educators have questioned the Title V, Section 510 abstinence education programs, believing that the focus on abstinence may put teens at risk of having unprotected sex. The evaluation findings suggest that this is not the case. Program and control group youth did not differ in their rates of unprotected sex, either at first intercourse or over the last 12 months. Less than 10 percent of all study youth (8 percent of control group youth and 7 percent of program group youth) reported having unprotected sex at first intercourse. Over the last 12 months, 21 percent of both program and control group youth reported having sex and not always using a condom.

Findings on behavioral outcomes for each of the four individual sites likewise indicate few statistically significant differences between program and control group youth. In each site, most differences between youth in the program and control groups were small and inconsistent in direction. ReCapturing the Vision displayed the largest positive differences with respect to abstinence from sex; 48 percent of program youth in this site reported being abstinent in the last 12 months compared with 43 percent of control group youth.

ReCapturing the Vision also displayed a positive difference of seven points in the proportion of youth who reported expecting to abstain from sex until marriage. Neither of these differences is statistically significant. Given the smaller sample sizes available for estimating impacts at the site level, however, the study cannot rule out modest site-specific impacts on these outcomes.

Many Title V, Section 510 abstinence education programs focus on the risks of STDs, and the evaluation results show some improvements in knowledge of STDs. Program group youth correctly identified a significantly higher proportion of STDs than control group youth, and program group youth were significantly more likely than control group youth to report (correctly) that birth control pills are never effective at preventing STDs (including HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, and herpes and human papillomavirus [HPV]). For both outcomes, My Choice, My Future! is the main source of the differences seen overall.

Program group youth, however, were less likely than control group youth to perceive condoms as effective at preventing STDs. Compared with control group youth, program group youth were less likely to report that condoms are usually effective at preventing HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, and herpes and HPV. Furthermore, program group youth were more likely than control group youth to report that condoms are never effective at preventing these STDs. As above, My Choice, My Future! is a main source of these overall impacts.

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