Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Fam Plann Perspect. 1999 Nov-Dec;31(6):280-6.

Abstinence promotion and the provision of information about contraception in public school district sexuality education policies.

Author information

  • 1The Alan Guttmacher Institute.



For more than two decades, abstinence from sexual intercourse has been promoted by some advocates as the central, if not sole, component of public school sexuality education policies in the United States. Little is known, however, about the extent to which policies actually focus on abstinence and about the relationship, at the local district level, between policies on teaching abstinence and policies on providing information about contraception.


A nationally representative sample of 825 public school district superintendents or their representatives completed a mailed questionnaire on sexuality education policies. Descriptive and multivariate analyses were conducted to identify districts that had sexuality education policies, their policy regarding abstinence education and the factors that influenced it.


Among the 69% of public school districts that have a district-wide policy to teach sexuality education, 14% have a comprehensive policy that treats abstinence as one option for adolescents in a broader sexuality education program; 51% teach abstinence as the preferred option for adolescents, but also permit discussion about contraception as an effective means of protecting against unintended pregnancy and disease (an abstinence-plus policy); and 35% (or 23% of all U.S. school districts) teach abstinence as the only option outside of marriage, with discussion of contraception either prohibited entirely or permitted only to emphasize its shortcomings (an abstinence-only policy). Districts in the South were almost five times as likely as those in the Northeast to have an abstinence-only policy. Among districts whose current policy replaced an earlier one, twice as many adopted a more abstinence-focused policy as moved in the opposite direction. Overall, though, there was no net increase among such districts in the number with an abstinence-only policy; instead, the largest change was toward abstinence-plus policies.


While a growing number of U.S. public school districts have made abstinence education a part of their curriculum, two-thirds of districts allow at least some positive discussion of contraception to occur. Nevertheless, one school district in three forbids dissemination of any positive information about contraception, regardless of whether their students are sexually active or at risk of pregnancy or disease.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for The Alan Guttmacher Institute
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk