Virginity Pledges Don’t Change Sexual BehaviorWhile teenagers’ pledges to remain a virgin until marriage may make them feel good about their sexuality choices, it apparently does little in actually changing their sexual behavior. A new study just published suggests that such premarital abstinence pledges are simply ineffective. The analysis from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at data gathered from a nationwide survey of 11,000 teens, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

The study found more than half of youths surveyed engaged in sexual activity, regardless of whether they had made a pledge to remain sexually abstinent.

Researchers also discovered something not entirely unexpected — virginity pledgers were 10 percent less likely to use a form of birth control. Virginity pledges are often tied to a person’s religious beliefs, which may also teach against using birth control.

The researchers focused on 934 high school students from about 3,400 students who had never had sex or had taken a virginity pledge in 1995. Investigators compared students who had taken a virginity pledge with those who hadn’t.

After five years, those who had taken a pledge did not differ from teens who hadn’t taken a pledge in rates of premarital sex, oral or anal sex, or sexually transmitted diseases.

The study also found that, after 5 years, more than 80 percent of virginity pledgers had retracted their promises.

The findings suggest that “virginity pledges” do little to deter teenage sexuality. It also suggests that people who take such pledges are at a slightly increased risk for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases when they do have sex, due to their decreased use of condoms or other birth control.

The findings were published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health