Virginity' Study Provides Misleading Analysis
Bronx, New York Jan 6, 2009
A recent study that claimed to show the ineffectiveness of virginity pledges actually underlines the need for more classroom-based programs that stress abstinence until marriage, says Healthy Respect's Executive Director, Dr. Nanci Coppola.
Healthy Respect's holistic approach to abstinence education develops character and the ability to make good choices over a range of life issues, and a virginity pledge or decision can play a vital role, she said.
"Abstinence programs such as Healthy Respect focus on the whole student in his or her environment and seek to build the character and outlook that will help a teenager set realistic goals for life," Dr. Coppola said. "Abstinence until marriage is part of a wider skill set that requires more than signing a one-time virginity pledge or wearing a chastity ring, though these can be important parts of the decision to remain abstinent. We provide personal attention and ongoing guidance to each young man and woman."
In addition, unlike most abstinence programs, Healthy Respect trains its own instructors who teach in regular public classroom settings in male-female teams, who serve as models of effective communication and respect between the sexes.
The virginity pledge study, released just before the new year, drew upon statistics compiled on teens by the federal government more than a decade ago. The author of the study, Janet Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, purported to show that there is no difference between teens who took a virginity pledge and those of similar family background and personal values who did not.
Lost in the media hype over the study, however, is the simple fact that both the pledgers and non-pledgers had their first sexual experience at age 21, four years later than the national average.
Valerie Huber, Executive Director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said in a statement, "This study looked only at individuals who have specific skills that are taught or reinforced in an abstinence program, so we are not at all surprised that they abstained about 4 years longer than their peers. This study simply reinforces the need to continue the skill building practices found in a typical abstinence-centered class."
Ms. Huber added: "The numerous and serious inaccuracies and deliberate mischaracterizations made by the author regarding abstinence education call into question her objectivity as a researcher and throws suspicion on the entire research she has conducted."
Citing Healthy Respect's success in inner-city public schools, Dr. Coppola concluded, "Independent researchers have shown that Healthy Respect has a significant impact on the attitudes of our students, and we will continue to teach the positive message of abstinence until marriage for the life and health of our teens."