A study of more than 2,000 Ohio middle school students suggests that an abstinence-only program had a limited effect in preventing sexual activity: It didn’t keep adolescents from having first-time sex, but it may have helped reduce the number of sexual partners that sexually active students have later on.
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland tracked down middle school students from that city and some of its suburbs five months after they had taken part in a school-based program called For Keeps, which encourages students to refrain from sexual activity until marriage. Compared with students who had not taken part in For Keeps, the study found, participating students were no more likely to refrain from having first-time sex or from engaging in sexual activity at all during the follow-up period.
But students who were already sexually active before the abstinence lessons had fewer partners afterward than did similarly experienced nonparticipating students.
A version of this article appeared in the September 14, 2005 edition of Education Week