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Virginity pledges work for some youths

June 12, 2008 | 12:10 pm


Making a pledge to remain a virgin until marriage is a popular part of some youth sex education programs. Several studies have cast doubt on their effectiveness. But new research from RAND Corp. says the idea appears to have some value.

Researchers surveyed 1,461 adolescents ages 12 to 17 in 2001 and reinterviewed them three years later. About one-quarter of the teens had made a virginity pledge when the study began. The researchers found that 42% of those who had not made virginity pledges compared with 34% who did became sexually active within the three years. Those who pledged were no more likely to engage in other non-intercourse sexual behavior. The study differed from others testing the power of virginity pledges because the researchers surveyed teens who were similar to one another in terms of religiosity, parenting and friendship characteristics. The results were published online this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Pledges won't work for everyone, psychologist and lead author Steven Martino said. Nor should they be considered a substitute for a comprehensive sex education program. But, he adds:

"Making a pledge to remain a virgin until married may provide extra motivation to adolescents who want to delay becoming sexually active. The act of pledging may create some social pressure or social support that helps them to follow through with their clearly stated public intention."

- Shari Roan

Photo: amandi - dulce (via Flickr, Creative Commons license)