Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have gained popularity in recent years in large part because the federal government continues to sink over $170 million each year into such programs.  These programs have never been proven effective and often rely on fear, shame, and misinformation.  In addition, virginity pledges, a cornerstone of many of these programs, have been shown to be ineffective at best and possibly harmful.


As abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have gained popularity many new curricula and resources have been created.  A number of researchers and organizations have reviewed these materials and found that they rely on fear and shame, include medical inaccuracies, and are inconsistent in their definitions of abstinence.  In addition to the resources listed in this section, see  SIECUS’ reviews of some of the more popular abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula at http://www.communityactionkit.org/curricula_reviews.html


Defining Abstinence: Views of Directors, Instructors, and Participants in Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in Texas

Source:  Patricia Goodson, et. al., “Defining abstinence: views of directors, instructors, and participants in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Texas,” Journal of School Health 73(3)(2005): 91-96.

Description:  The researchers evaluated how program directors, instructors, and teens in eight Texas abstinence-only-until-marriage education programs define the term “abstinence.”

Key Findings:

  • There was “substantial variability” in how the term “abstinence” was defined.
  • Researchers concluded that “…many of the programs awarded federal funding for abstinence education are not sex education programs.”


The Waxman Report

Source:Prepared for Rep. Henry A. Waxman, The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs(Washington, DC: United States House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff, Special Investigations Division, 2004).

Description: This Congressional report prepared for Representative Henry Waxman (D-California) found that widely used federally funded abstinence-only curricula distort information, misrepresent the facts, and promote gender stereotypes.

Key Findings:

  • More than 80 percent of the abstinence-only curricula reviewed contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.
  • The curricula reviewed misrepresent the effectiveness of contraceptives in preventing STDs and unintended pregnancy.
  • The curricula reviewed contain false information about the risks of abortion, blur religion and science, promote gender stereotypes, and contain basic scientific errors.


To View this Resource:  http://oversight.house.gov/investigations.asp

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