07/08/2009 (11:12 am)
In the “Urban Yuppie Myth Gets Mugged by Reality” category (a cousin to the “things an 8th grader could tell you that we have to waste research dollars proving” category,) the UK Daily Mail reported a British Department of Health survey showing that a program aimed at reducing teen pregnancy by handing out condoms and teaching safe sex resulted in doubling the rate of teen pregnancy among the girls in the program.
A multi-million pound initiative to reduce teenage pregnancies more than doubled the number of girls conceiving.
The Government-backed scheme tried to persuade teenage girls not to get pregnant by handing out condoms and teaching them about sex.
But research funded by the Department of Health shows that young women who attended the programme, at a cost of £2,500 each, were ‘significantly’ more likely to become pregnant than those on other youth programmes who were not given contraception and sex advice.
A total of 16 per cent of those on the Young People’s Development Programme conceived compared with just 6 per cent in other programmes.
This speaks directly to the incredible myth believed by a large number of Americans, that somehow teaching our already-media-sex-saturated kids about sex and giving them condoms is a means to reduce both teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease, but that encouraging them to refrain from sex will have no effect. A recent survey of research reporting on comprehensive sex ed and abstinence programs in America reported that abstinence programs actually work better than comprehensive sex ed.
The British launched their program in 2004 based on reports from a program in New York that, in retrospect, may have cooked the books in order to seem more effective:
The failed YPDP, launched in 2004, was based on a similar scheme in New York claimed to have significantly reduced teenage pregnancies.
However, attempts to replicate the work elsewhere in the U.S. did not lead to a fall in teenage pregnancies, casting doubt on the project as a whole.
So, the British program spent £6m on 2,371 teenage girls over a three-year period, and following the New York program’s lead, managed to double their pregnancy rate. The program also aimed at reducing the girls’ cannabis usage and drinking, but apparently had no effect on these.
The report, commissioned by the UK’s Department of Health and published in the British Medical Journal, claimed that the program failed because it gathered at-risk girls into a peer group, which produced pressure on the girls to conform to a self-destructive life pattern. If this assessment is correct, it appears possible than any program that pulled these girls together might have failed for a similar reason, unless that program also empowered the girls somehow to resist peer pressure. However, it is clear that gathering them for the purpose of saying “be safe, and use condoms,” does not solve the problem. This seems like a no-brainer: it’s hard to imagine a teenager in our media culture who does not already know too much about both sex and condoms, and the few who fit that description are probably those least in need of the knowledge.
What teenagers lack is a clear message from the culture saying “It’s virtuous to say ‘No.’” Lacking such a clear message, kids who feel peer pressure to engage in sex in order to fit in have no grounds from which to resist. Widespread abstinence programs give them those grounds by spelling out the consequences of too-early sexual involvement and providing an unambiguous message from adults. Contrary to the urban myth, children do listen to adults, and mark both their convictions and their behavior; they rebel, but they expect parents to resist their rebellion, and they despise those who don’t.
The saddest item in the story was the sidebar photo, which I’ve clipped and included, reporting a young lady by name and announcing: “No regrets. L… L… had four abortions by the age of 16.” The loosening of sexual mores is normal and healthy for teenagers, don’t you know?
American Boomer parents are afraid to be “hypocrites” by instructing their kids to abstain from sex until they’re in a position to handle it responsibly (e.g., the sexually active couple will be able and willing to care for the kid if they get pregnant) because so many of them acted irresponsibly. This is craven madness. “I made a mistake, so it’s appropriate for you to make the same mistake.” This makes sense? Boomer parents need to grow balls and tell their kids the truth: that premature, casual sex puts them at significant risk of debilitating diseases and pregnancy, that having a kid out of wedlock will make their lives much harder and the kid will suffer as well, that abortion is a risky surgery that endangers future fertility and produces powerful, negative feelings from which it will take them years to recover (not to mention that it’s grossly immoral), and that they are not ready to have sex until they are able to take care of the children that sex is designed to produce.
Or better yet, they tell their kids what one woman I knew told her daughters: “Sex will kill you. No, I don’t mean AIDS; I mean if I find out you’ve been having sex outside of marriage, I will kill you.” Now, that’s parenting.