Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Staying Chaste"

The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Socity is a fine organization. Education, advocacy, organization, networking -- they do it all. From their regular updates, here's an excellent report on the values of chastity.

In the decades since the sexual revolution swept the country with its message of anything-goes permissiveness, social scientists have assiduously investigated the attitudes and behaviors of adolescents carried along on the cultural tides. But a team of scholars from Mississippi State University, the University of Missouri, and Arizona State University believes it is past time to re-focus the research agenda. "Little attention," these scholars complain in a recent issue of The Journal of Adolescent Research, "has been paid to understanding adolescents who are resilient enough to remain abstinent in the face of often extreme peer pressure and media messages that make early sexual activity appear attractive and normal."

To remedy this lacuna in the research, these scholars examine data collected from 568 adolescents who identified themselves as virgins when surveyed at 20 different Missouri schools in 1997 and who responded to a follow-up survey in 1999. Their results clearly indicate that adolescent libido is not an uncontrollable force; indeed, their findings highlight the real restraining effects of parents, of personal conscience and commitments, and of religion.

When surveyed in 1999, the number of self-identified virgins in this group had dwindled to 422 (74 percent of the original group). Surprisingly, the erstwhile virgins who had become sexually active by 1999 were just as likely to have expressed concerns in the original survey about the risk of pregnancy as their still-continent peers (84 percent compared to 80 percent). Nor were the newly sexually active much less likely than their still-continent peers to have expressed fears in the original survey about the danger of AIDS (79 percent vs. 83 percent).

Worries about parental disapproval of sexual involvement did run somewhat lower in 1997 among those who jettisoned their status as virgins during the next two years than among those retained that status during this period (48 percent versus 60 percent; p <>

Overall, the researchers see little evidence for "fear-based postponement" among continent adolescents. In contrast, the researchers discern strong indications in their data that "having conservative values related to delaying sexual activity until marriage shows promise as a protective factor in delaying sexual activity."

Will such research findings prompt educators to begin inculcating conservative values in their students? Or will they just continue to pass out contraceptives?

(Source: Lynn Blinn-Pike et al., "Sexually Abstinent Adolescents: An 18-Month Follow-Up," Journal of Adolescent Research 19 [2004]: 495-511.)