Report Roundup

January 17, 2001 8 min read
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‘Virginity’ Pledges
Have Varying Effects

Teenagers who make public pledges to delay sexual intercourse until they are married tend to wait longer to have sex than those who do not make such “virginity pledges,” a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concludes.

For More Information

A report on the research is scheduled to appear in this months issue of the American Journal of Sociology.

However, they discovered that the virginity pledges were effective only in specific situations and for specific age groups.

“Our findings surprised us because we didn’t expect to see any effect from these pledges, but it was just the opposite,” the lead investigator, Peter S. Bearman, said in a prepared statement. Bearman is a former UNC sociology professor who is now at Columbia University.

“The effectiveness of pledging depends on students’ ages,” he said in the statement. “Among adolescents aged 18 and older, pledging makes no difference. Among 16- and 17-year-olds, pledgers delay sex significantly. Among the youngest adolescents, the effect of pledging depends strongly on the social environment of the teen’s school.”

The study was based on data from the Add Health study, a Congressionally mandated project that sent questionnaires to about 90,000 middle and high school students and followed up with detailed, in- home interviews with 20,000 of those youths and their parents.

A report on the research, which was supported mostly by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is scheduled to appear in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Sociology.

—Kevin Bushweller

Adolescent Sexuality: More information is needed about the prevalence of oral sex among adolescents, two recent reports say.

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Both reports, “Oral Sex Among Adolescents: Is It Abstinence or Is It Sex?” and “Heterosexual Genital Sexual Activity Among Adolescent Males: 1988 and 1995,” are available from the The Alan Guttmacher Institute.

“Oral Sex Among Adolescents: Is it Abstinence or Is It Sex?” concludes that educators, health professionals, and policymakers are at a disadvantage in setting up programs that discourage young people from engaging in risky sexual behavior because they don’t have enough data about the extent to which adolescents engage in oral sex.

The report appeared in the November/December 2000 issue of Family Planning Perspectives, a bimonthly journal of the Alan Guttmacher Institute. A related article published in the same issue, “Heterosexual Genital Sexual Activity Among Adolescent Males: 1988 and 1995,” showed that 49 percent of males ages 15 to 19 reported they had received oral sex, 39 percent had performed oral sex, and 11 percent had engaged in anal sex.

The first report, based on interviews with about two dozen health experts and a review of existing data, examines whether peer pressure plays a significant role in decisions to engage in oral sex. It also highlights the difficulties in screening for sexually transmitted diseases contracted orally and the possibility that such diseases are therefore underreported.

In addition, the report argues for broadening the range of behaviors examined in national surveys of adolescent sexual behavior to help researchers identify what groups of students are most at risk and for developing appropriate programs and policies.

—Kevin Bushweller

Juvenile Arrests: The number of juveniles arrested for violent crimes in the United States declined dramatically in 1999, a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice shows.

For More Information

“Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report,” is available from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The analysis, which used national and state juvenile-arrest data reported in the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report, says that the number of violent crimes perpetrated by juveniles dropped 36 percent since 1993.

In 1999, 1,400 U.S. juveniles under age 18 were arrested for committing homicide, compared with 3,800 who were arrested in 1993, a drop of 68 percent. The decrease occurred despite an 8 percent growth in the juvenile population in the late 1990s, the report points out.

But while fewer youths are being arrested for violent crimes, more are being apprehended for drug offenses, the study found. Between 1990 and 1999, juvenile arrests for drug violations jumped 132 percent.

—Jessica Portner

Drug-Use Trends: Fewer U.S. students reported smoking cigarettes in 2000, but a larger number said they were experimenting with the drug “ecstasy,” according to an annual, national survey that monitors trends in youth drug use.

For More Information

An executive summary of Monitoring the Future, 2000 edition, is available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

While the overall use of illicit drugs remained relatively flat, the percentage of students who said they had smoked cigarettes in the past month dropped significantly, from 17.5 in 1999 to 14.6 last year among 8th graders, and from 34.6 percent to 31.4 percent among 12th graders. Researchers surveyed more than 45,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade.

The only real spike in illicit-drug use was with the increasingly popular ecstasy, which is a synthetic hallucinogenic drug with amphetamine-like properties. The percentage of students who reported having used it in the past year rose from 5.6 percent in 1999 to 8.2 percent in 2000 among high school seniors, and from 1.7 percent to 3.1 percent among 8th graders. The 2000 edition of “Monitoring the Future,” is financed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

—Jessica Portner

Working With Parents: Teachers in Kentucky want more guidance in ways to work effectively with families on education-related issues, according to a recent survey by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

For More Information

“Building Partnerships with Families,” is available from the Prichard Committee.

Of the 529 teachers surveyed by the statewide advocacy group, 52 percent reported that they had taken at least one teacher-training course, such as human development, that prepared them to work with parents and families in a public school program. But 76 percent said that instruction was not sufficient.

Administrators and teacher-educators also were surveyed. More than half—57 percent—of the teacher-educators and two-thirds of the administrators said they had not received enough information about how to work with families.

—Michelle Galley

After-School Programs: If you want to know more about after-school programs, a new guide from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation may serve as a good starting point.

For More Information

“After-School Programs—Issues & Ideas,” is available from The Future of Children.

The guide highlights after-school options for families, provides data showing why the authors believe the country needs more of those programs, and includes program descriptions, pertinent Web sites, studies, and a list of experts.

Increasing concerns about student achievement, safety, and changes in family life are forcing educators, policymakers, and parents to look for more activities for children to take part in after school, it says. For example, the guides cites a poll last June that found that more than nine of every 10 voters surveyed agreed children and teenagers should have an organized activity or structured place to go after school.

—Kevin Bushweller

Investment in Children: Far too many political and economic leaders fail to understand the essential truth about early-childhood development, the United Nations Children’s Fund concludes in its annual report on the well-being of children.

For More Information

More information on ordering The State of the World’s Children 2001 is available from Unicef.

“The greatest tragedy is that many decision makers simply don’t know how crucial those first three years of life are,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in a statement to the press. “But we have made great strides in understanding human development, and we are now certain that those years are vital to everything that comes later.”

The report notes that nearly 11 million children worldwide die each year from preventable diseases, 170 million are malnourished, more than 100 million have never seen the inside of a school, and roughly one in every 10 has a disability.

The report calls on individuals, governments, and international agencies to invest more money in early-childhood programs, with a special emphasis on infants and children ages 1 to 3.

—Kevin Bushweller

Future Shock: In a special report from the World Future Society in Bethesda, Md., authors Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies identify several trends that have wide-ranging implications for the future of schools.

For More Information

Read more about ‘50 Trends Now Changing the World,” from the World Future Society.

They say young people—especially the “ generation” and those following in its footsteps—are placing a much greater emphasis on economic success than previous generations. But the authors point out that young people’s expectations may be countered by the erosion of a strong work ethic. Job tardiness is increasing, they say, as well as abuse of sick leave.

The report also argues that, to thrive in the world of the future, people will have to be in a constant cycle of re-educating themselves. In 10 years, the authors say, 90 percent of an engineer’s knowledge, for example, will be available on a computer.

—Kevin Bushweller

Teen Pregnancy: Providing students with a strong academic program that includes high expectations, broad-based standards, and a challenging curriculum can help reduce early parenthood among teenagers, says a report from the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Drawing on recent adolescent research, it recommends that state school boards include health education and sexuality education in state standards, and incorporate “indicators of general well-being” into state accountability systems.

State boards should also help state agencies provide high-quality, affordable health care to children, youths, and families, the report argues.

“The Impact of Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenthood on Educational Achievement” is available for $7 by calling NASBE at (800) 220-5183.

—Michelle Galley

A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2001 edition of Education Week as Report Roundup


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