Laura Duberstein Lindberg and Isaac Maddow-Zimet of the Guttmacher Institute in New York analyzed data from 4,691 males and females ages 15-24 who participated in the 2006 to 2008 National Survey of Family Growth.
The researchers found 66 percent of sexually experienced females and 55 percent of sexually experienced males reported having received information about both abstinence and birth control prior to first intercourse.
Eighteen percent of sexually experienced females and 21 percent of males received only abstinence instruction, while 16 percent of females and 24 percent of males no instruction on either topic.
The study is based on reports of teens and young adults who were asked whether they had received formal instruction prior to age 18 on "how to say no to sex" or on "methods of birth control."
Because of the way the questions were asked it is impossible to know what kind of sex education was received. Some teens might have considered the failure rate of condoms sex education, when it is often discussed under abstinence.
Respondents who had received instruction on both abstinence and birth control were older at first sex than their those who had no instruction. They were more likely to have used condoms or other contraceptives at first sex, the study said.
Those who had received only abstinence instruction were more likely to have delayed first intercourse than were those who had had no sex education. Condom use at first sex was significantly less likely among females who had had only abstinence instruction than among those who had received information about both abstinence and birth control.
The findings were published online ahead of the print edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health.