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05-11-06, 12:24 AM #1
Study shows viginity pledges amongst those who take them, don't last
Virginity pledges, in which young people vow to abstain from sex until marriage, have little staying power among those who take them, a Harvard University study has found.
In fact, more than half the adolescents who make such signed, public promises give up on their pledges within a year, according to the study released last week.
The findings have raised the ire of Concerned Women for America, a conservative organization that endorses adolescent sexual abstinence.
"The Harvard report is wrong," said Janice Crouse, a fellow at a Concerned Women for America think-tank.
"This study is in direct contradiction with trends we have been seeing in recent years," Crouse said. "Those who make virginity pledges have shown greater resolve to save sex for marriage."
Virginity pledges were introduced in the early 1990s as part of the Christian Sex Education Project. Their adult champions hail the promises, which rest solely on the individual's word, as being a major step toward reducing teen pregnancy and raising moral values.
By some estimates, at least 2.5 million adolescents around the world have publicly vowed to postpone sex until marriage. They include virgins as well as those who have had a sexual experience but who swear to refrain from further activity.
Many wear rings or other jewelry to symbolize their pledge.
For the Harvard report, researcher Janet Rosenbaum analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a national survey conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Development. It is the only government-sponsored study that asks about virginity pledges.
The 14,000 survey subjects were interviewed in 1995 and re-interviewed in 1996 and 2001. They ranged in age from 12 to 18, and lived throughout the United States.
Rosenbaum found that 52 percent of those who said they had signed virginity pledges had recanted those pledges within a year. Additionally, 73 percent of those who told the first survey that they had taken a pledge denied making such a promise when they were surveyed a second time (this paragraph as published has been corrected in this text).
"This may indicate that they are not that closely affiliated with the pledge," she said.
The adolescents also were unreliable in reporting their sexual experiences, Rosenbaum said. Almost one-third of non-virgins in the first survey who later took a virginity pledge said in the next survey that they had never had sex.
"That puts a lot of error in these studies," Rosenbaum said.
Virginity pledgers, she determined, "are more likely to give bad information--unreliable data--about their sexual history."
Medical testing is a more reliable gauge of adolescent sexual activity than their own reporting, Rosenbaum said.
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