What makes a teen want to be abstinent?

A study done in 2001 that followed 1,112 teens over a period of four years, found out some interesting things about teens and sex.

  • the majority of abstinent teens said they were virgins because they were afraid of getting a disease or getting pregnant rather than because of conservative or religious philosophies against having sex before marriage;
  • rural teens were not more likely to be abstinent that urban teens; and
  • compared to sexually active teens, abstinent teens could list more reasons why virginity was important.

I have a few thoughts about these findings.  First, while we don’t want to rely on fear alone to keep our kids abstinent, maybe the dad who told me about sitting down with his son and showing him pictures of STD infections on the internet was on to something.  With 1 in 4 sexually active teens getting an STD, might a little fear be a useful tool?  Second, we shouldn’t be naive and think that it’s only those city kids, not our nice suburban kids, who are having sex.  Third, we need to make sure our kids are well-versed in the many reasons why abstinence is a good choice.  Why not sit down and brainstorm reasons with your teen?  They may get it that pregnancy and STDs are not a good thing, but have they thought about how choosing abstinence can foster self-control and self-respect?  How a relationship can grow stronger when love is expressed creatively in other ways?  One of our educators used to draw a line up on the board and have the students come up with Pros and Cons.  I can imagine a conversation that goes something like this:  “Honey, with all the pressures teens are facing these days, some of your friends are going to become sexually active, and maybe even pressure you to “do it” too.  I’ve seen you make so many great choices, and I know you can make healthy decisions in this area too.  But it’s tough to stand up for yourself if you haven’t thought through what you believe and what you’re going to say ahead of time.  I thought maybe we could do a Pro/Con list on the question of whether or not teens should have sex.”