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EDUCATION | THE RESEARCH FILE

No Change in Sexual Behavior

June 25, 1997

A curriculum stressing sexual abstinence that was widely used in California schools did not change younger teenagers' sexual behavior, a study has found.

The program, called Postponing Sexual Involvement, produced only small changes in some teens' sexual attitudes and sexual intentions but did not affect frequency of intercourse or number of sexual partners, according to the study by the New York-based Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research center formerly affiliated with Planned Parenthood that endorses a more comprehensive approach to sex education.

The program was the core of a statewide teenage pregnancy prevention initiative involving 187,000 12-to-14 year old youths in 31 California Counties. The institute surveyed about 3,500 teenagers who were exposed to the five-session course. Earlier this year, the institute released figures showing that California led all states in teenage pregnancy with 159 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19. The institute believes that the most effective sex education includes information not only about abstinence but contraception, along with techniques to improve teens' communication skills.

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