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She Became the Face of Statistics

June 11, 2009

By Bob McAlister & Dave Wilson

Amanda was nine when we met her. The daughter of a single mom, she didn’t really hear about the benefits of delaying sex until marriage. Instead, she was taught how to use contraception and grew up watching her mother’s live-in boyfriends come and go. Like many daughters of teenage mothers, she followed in mom’s footsteps.

The messages she heard about sex were loud and strong.

Even before the rise of teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS in the 80’s, comprehensive health education experts began their drive to focus America’s attention on increasing condom use to reduce the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease among teens. Unfortunately, despite billions invested, there is no clear evidence today that teens effectively and consistently use contraception, particularly over the lifespan of their dating relationships. In fact, NPR’s Youth Radio host Pendarvis Harshaw says the transition from condoms to no-condoms, among his friends, is the sign of a lasting commitment.

The consequences of teen sex, though, reach well beyond the areas protected by condoms.

Sexually active teens face higher rates of depression, suicide and substance abuse, with two out of every three sexually active teenage girls harbor feelings of guilt, saying they were “too young” when they first had sex. Research published by the American Psychological Association says, “adolescents who initiate sexual intercourse early experience greater psychological risk, including more problem behavior and substance use, disrupted family and parental relationships, and poor school performance.”

Amanda had become the face of statistics. The younger teens are when beginning sexual activity, the more likely they are to have more sex partners. More partners put them at a greater risk for all types of consequences – physical, emotional, social and financial.

That’s exactly what happened to Amanda. After becoming sexually active in the 8th grade, relationships at school and home began to falter. She became depressed. She turned to alcohol and drugs. Her grades began to drop. And it was shortly thereafter, at the age of 15, that Amanda became pregnant.

Teens, while completely capable physically of having sex, aren’t physiologically ready for all that it entails. The teen brain is not fully developed until much later. For adults, it’s hard enough not to react to sexual stimulation. For teens, their brains aren’t even fully wired yet to logically separate themselves from a heated moment.

That’s where abstinence’s overriding concept of avoiding risk, not just reducing it, is key. Douglas Kirby, a well-respected researcher in the field of comprehensive health education, has said “…it may actually be easier to delay the onset of intercourse [continue abstinence] than to increase contraceptive practice.”

There are effective abstinence-centered and contraception-centered programs, which delay the initiation of sex. Whether a program calls it “abstaining “ – as abstinence educators say – or “delaying the onset of intercourse” – as comprehensive sex educators say, the behavior is the same: helping teens avoid risk. And when teens abstain, they do better educationally, socially, psychologically and physically.

Teens are “wired” to connect, and they’re vulnerable to being led in the wrong direction. Mental health experts agree that on the important issues of life, they should not be put on autopilot. They need direction from people that genuinely care about their well being.

Teaching teens key life skills and providing them with life perspective, Heritage Keepers® Abstinence Education has consistently shown that its students actually initiate sex at a rate half that of similar students not involved in their program. Other abstinence-centered programs show similar results. Such initiatives were introduced under Welfare Reform to break the cycle poverty – like the three generations of Amanda’s family.

As defined under Welfare Reform, the purpose of abstinence-centered is to teach the social, psychological and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity. Programs like South Carolina’s Heritage Keepers® help teens understand that the majority of teens are not having sex. In fact, these programs are helping young people learn how to make sure their time and energy are in line with their values and goals.

If Amanda had been taught the benefits and skills of abstinence, she might have abstained from sex. And her childhood dreams of becoming a doctor may have happened.

Since Welfare Reform, when funding was allocated to the states for abstinence education, national teen pregnancy rates have plummeted. In South Carolina, rates have gone down 35%. If teen pregnancy rates rose again to pre-Welfare Reform numbers, the impact on taxpayers of this state and country would be devastating. In the face of serious human and economic challenges, it’s important that funding for abstinence-centered education continue.

Families formed outside of the commitment of marriage struggle. Statistically, the parents have less education, make less money, and often make up a disproportionate percentage of those on welfare. That’s placed the financial burden on taxpayers who must now fund state- and federally-mandated entitlement programs that have soared beyond the capacities of government.

We need to teach our children the differences between love, lust and infatuation. We need to help them refuse to settle for less. We need to give them the skills to build healthy relationships, without sex, and set boundaries that will help them achieve their dreams. If we don’t, the worn fabric of American society will eventually tear and children, just like Amanda, will fall through the cracks… again.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. telson7 permalink
    June 14, 2009 8:28 AM

    People in the last days are lovers of themselves, conceited and full of them own ego. As result of those features in the last days people is lacking to face needs of other people, because they are slaves of their own lusts and needs. For this reason they try desperate fill theirs lusts and needs only concentrating themselves. Naturally, this means that they can’t face needs of their partners and spouses, because they see their own needs more important as their spouses and partners. They are incompetent to give love to their spouses in a way that his/her spouse or partner could undergo enjoyable sexual experience. Of course not in all relationships in the last days is not sex problems, but according to the Bible it is however very big and large problem in the last days. The Bible says that in the last days many people are incompetence to health, enjoyable and loving sex life.

    http://koti.phnet.fi/petripaavola/sexresearch.html

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