Teenage pregnancy is a big problem. Sex education can help fight it

 Teenage pregnancy is a big problem. Sex education can help fight it

The evidence supporting the benefits of sex education is growing.



Sexual education is a contentious issue in many parts of the world, but researchers are discovering more and more benefits to it. Researchers discovered that having access to sexual education programmes can reduce teenage pregnancy in a new study.


The study was conducted in the United States and compared teenage pregnancy rates in various counties over a 20-year period. Some counties had sexual education programmes in place for over a decade, while others had not. Teenage pregnancy dropped significantly in areas where sexual education was implemented, according to the findings.


Teenage pregnancy rates fell by 1.5 percent the first year programmes were implemented, and by approximately 7 percent by the fifth year of funding.


"Sex education in the United States has been hotly debated among researchers, policymakers, and the public," says Nicholas Mark, a doctoral candidate in New York University's Department of Sociology and the paper's lead author (PNAS). "Our analysis shows that funding for more comprehensive sex education resulted in a more than 3% reduction in teen birth rates at the county level."


The study concentrated on the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP), which was launched in 2010 and distributes funding at the county level. This programme provides in-depth information about sex, contraception, and reproductive health. Meanwhile, some counties place a greater emphasis on abstinence-only programmes, which have proven to be ineffective.


"We've known for a long time that abstinence-only programmes are ineffective at reducing teen birth rates," says Lawrence Wu, the paper's senior author and a professor in NYU's Department of Sociology. "This study demonstrates that more comprehensive sex education programs—those that do not focus solely on abstinence—are effective in lowering rates of adolescent pregnancy."


The United States has a relatively high teen pregnancy rate when compared to other developed countries. Despite a general decline over the last two decades, the rate remains relatively high. Three out of every ten American girls will become pregnant before the age of 20, amounting to nearly 750,000 pregnancies each year.


Previous research has demonstrated that abstinence-only programmes are not only ineffective, but also unethical. In fact, teaching only abstinence can lead to an increase (rather than a decrease) in adolescent pregnancy.


Studies like this one lend credence to the notion that sex education programmes provide tangible benefits to society. Furthermore, studies indicate that teens are having sex earlier than ever before, implying that sex-education programmes are more important than ever. Furthermore, a majority of US voters support the implementation of sexual education programmes.


The findings, according to the researchers, are consistent with previous findings. When sex education programmes are implemented, teenage birth rates typically decrease slightly, and the rate appears to decrease further over time.


Finally, the team concludes that federal funding for comprehensive sexual education is needed.

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