Government Study Withheld for Year: 70 Percent of Parents and 54 Percent of Teens Say Sex Before Marriage is Wrong [Excerpts]
By Jane McGrath
Seventy percent of American parents and 53.5 percent of American adolescents believe sex before marriage is wrong, according to a federally funded study released Monday by the Administration of Children and Families, an agency within the Health and Human Services Department.
Although the report on the study was completed by February 2009, HHS did not release it until last week, even when asked to do so--prompting speculation that the Obama administration did not like the report’s conclusions.
“I think it tells us that abstinence education is the center of cultural norms for parents and teens,” Valerie Huber, Executive Director of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA), told CNSNews.com. “That doesn’t mean that the current teen behavior is exactly in that sweet spot, but it shows that that should be our goal – not just for health reasons but because that is exactly what parents and teens want in terms of sex education.”
“I think it’s striking that the study found that large majorities – both of parents and adolescents – believe that having sexual intercourse is something only married people should do,” Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council Peter Sprigg told CNSNews.com. “Seventy-two percent of the parents and 62 percent of the adolescents either strongly or somewhat agree with that statement. And that’s the message that abstinence-until-marriage programs seek to send.”
The report suggests that parental attitudes do matter to teenagers: “More conservative parent attitudes about sex and abstinence were broadly associated with more conservative attitudes among adolescents, adjusting for other factors.”
Sprigg pointed to one finding in the study indicating that students involved in abstinence education programs were more likely to communicate with their parents about such topics: “So I think a strong message from parents and a strong abstinence message from a curriculum or program are mutually reinforcing influences,” Sprigg told CNSNews.com.
Sprigg noted that religious participation has a powerful influence on attitudes toward abstinence and premarital sex: “There were very striking differences between those who never attend worship and those who attend worship weekly – both among the parents and among the adolescents,” Sprigg said. “Those who attend worship weekly [had] much more conservative or restrictive attitude towards sex before marriage,” he noted.