Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Virginity Pledge Study Reminds Us to Beware of Sound Bites

posted by Michele Olson

Coffee is good for you. Coffee is bad for you. A different sound bite each day. Unless you go and read the details of each study, you will form your opinion based on short sound bites and newspaper headlines.

Upon delving into a study on coffee, you may find coffee in moderation is good for you, but excessive “Joe” will cause other problems.

Unless you dig a little, you won’t get to the story behind the story.

That’s what has happened with a recent study published in the Jan. 1 edition of Pediatrics. The author concluded that teens who take a virginity pledge until marriage really don’t behave any differently who those who don’t take a pledge.

Here’s what you saw in the headlines:

Virginity Pledges Don’t Stop Teen Sex - CBS

Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds - Washington Post

Study: Teens Who Pledge Abstinence More Likely to Have Unprotected Sex
-Fox News

As a parent or someone who works with teens, you are probably thinking…"Well, so much for that idea…”

Not so fast.

William McGurn in an Opinion Journal on the Wall Street Journal website has posted an article
highlighting the disconnect noticed in the study by Dr. Bernadine Healy, former chief of the National Institutes of Health (the first woman to hold the influential post), former head of the American Red Cross, and former deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Dr. Healy points out that the only way the study author, Janet Elise Rosenbaum of John Hopkins University could come to such results is by comparing teens who take a virginity pledge with a very small subset of other teens: those who are just as religious and conservative as the pledge-takers. She brought to light the fact that “virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general, a fact that many media reports have missed cold.”

It’s not the pledge itself that distinguishes these kids from most teenagers. The real difference is their more conservative and religious home and social environment. When comparing both groups with teens at large, the behavioral differences are striking.

Those differences are listed in the opinion piece, which is well worth reading.

That's quite a different story than what you can garner from the headlines.

That, as Paul Harvey for is famous for saying, Is the Rest of the Story.

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