July 19, 2005
Preventing Unintended Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Disease
Dr. David Prescott, MD
Overview of Preventing Unintended Teen Pregnancy: Professional organizations like the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have carefully reviewed research concerning the prevention of unwanted teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Task force reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics in July, 2005, and the American Psychological Association in February, 2005 come to similar conclusions. The most successful programs for reducing unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases use multiple and varied approaches. Approaches which include “…abstinence promotion and contraception information, contraceptive availability, sexuality education, school-completion strategies, and job training” have the highest rates of success. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Statistics Relevant to Teenage Pregnancy: About one in four American youth are sexually active before the age of 15. Approximately 45% of high school age young woman have been sexually active, and approximately 48% of high school age young men. About two-thirds of high school age youth who acknowledged sexual activity said they used a condom.
Giving birth prior to age 17 has been shown to increase the risks of medical problems in children. While not inevitable, becoming a parent as a teenager is often associated with lower rates of educational achievement and higher unemployment.
Approaches to Reducing Unintended Teenage Pregnancy:
Delaying Onset of Sexual Activity: Research suggests that both abstinence only and sex education approaches delay the onset of sexual activity. That is, either of these approaches is associated with adolescents waiting until they are older before becoming sexually active.
Reducing Unintended Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Disease: Only comprehensive sex education approaches have been supported as reducing unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In contrast, scientifically sound studies of abstinence only approaches suggest that these approaches are associated with higher rates of unprotected sex when sexually activity begins.
Impact of Sex Education on Age of First Sexual Experience: Scientifically sound studies do not find that sexuality education (for example discussing appropriate use of condoms) is associated with decreasing the age of first sexual experience. In fact, sex education appears to be associated with increased sexual abstinence and delayed onset of first sexual experience.