Advertisement

Comprehensive sex education associated with lower teen birth rates

By HealthDay News
In the counties that received Teen Pregnancy Prevention program funding, teen pregnancy rates fell by 1.5% in the first year of funding and about 7% in the fifth year of funding, for an average decline of more than 3% during the study period. Photo by Free-Photos/Pixabay
In the counties that received Teen Pregnancy Prevention program funding, teen pregnancy rates fell by 1.5% in the first year of funding and about 7% in the fifth year of funding, for an average decline of more than 3% during the study period. Photo by Free-Photos/Pixabay

Sex education does help prevent unwanted pregnancies, with a new study showing teen birth rates fell in U.S. counties where federal government-funded sex education programs were introduced just over a decade ago.

"Sex education in the United States has been hotly debated among researchers, policymakers and the public," said lead study author Nicholas Mark. He is a sociology doctoral candidate at New York University.

Advertisement

"Our analysis provides evidence that funding for more comprehensive sex education led to an overall reduction in the teen birth rate at the county level of more than 3%," Mark said in a university news release.

For the study, Mark and colleagues examined how the federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program affected teen birth rates in 55 counties in the United States. The program was launched in 2010 and provides funding at the county level.

The investigators compared birth rates in those counties before (1996 to 2009) and while (2010 to 2016) they received TPP funding, and also in more than 2,800 counties that did not receive the funding.

In the counties that received the funding, teen pregnancy rates fell by 1.5% in the first year of funding and about 7% in the fifth year of funding, for an average decline of more than 3% during the study period.

Advertisement

The small decrease in teen birth rates shortly after the funded sex education programs began is consistent with past research, the study authors noted.

They added that the greater decline in rates over time may be due to a larger number of teens receiving the TPP-funded sex education coinciding with years in which they became more sexually active.

"We've known for some time that abstinence-only programs are ineffective at reducing teen birth rates," said study co-author Lawrence Wu, a professor in the NYU sociology department.

"This work shows that more wide-reaching sex education programs -- those not limited to abstinence -- are successful in lowering rates of teenage pregnancy," Wu added.

Teen pregnancies pose risks to mother and baby in both developed and developing countries.

The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers advice on talking to children about sex.

Copyright © 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Latest Headlines