Send to

Choose Destination
J Adolesc Health. 2005 May;36(5):428-36.

Promising to wait: virginity pledges and adolescent sexual behavior.

Author information

Prevention Research Center, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Berkeley, California 94704, USA.



The current study examined the association between formal and non-formal virginity pledges and the initiation of genital play, oral sex, and vaginal intercourse among adolescents.


Logistic regressions controlling for age, gender, race, expectancies, academic achievement, contraceptive education, perceived peer pledging behavior, and parental and peer attitudes were conducted to examine the relationship between pledging behavior and genital play, oral sex, and vaginal intercourse. A total of 870 adolescents aged 12-16 from 10 counties in northern and southern California participated in the current study.


The findings indicate that making a private pledge or promise to oneself to wait to have sexual intercourse until one is older reduces the likelihood that adolescents will engage in sexual intercourse and oral sex. The effect persists even when controlling for socio-demographic variables. Making a formal pledge did not appear to have an effect on sexual behavior.


The findings raise questions about the effectiveness of formal virginity pledges in preventing adolescent sexual behavior. The findings suggest that sexual health programs may be more effective if they encourage young people to make a personal commitment to delay the onset of sex, foster social norms supportive of delaying sex, and raise awareness of how early sexual initiation may threaten future plans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center