By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 23, 2010 ( – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has now released the full results of a government study that will give behavioral scientists insight into how parental attitudes and social norms are key to promoting abstinence before marriage, rather than sex ed programs.

Recently the HHS had been criticized for its delayed release of the full results of the study, as only an executive summary of the study’s final conclusions were available.

Lisa Rue, Ph.D., a specialist in adolescent behavior, had complained that without the full data of the study, experts such as herself had less material to help teach adolescents to abstain from sexual activity, which would in turn reduce the epidemic spread of venereal disease and the incidence of teenage pregnancy.

“We have to know cultural norms and values before we ever do any kind of research, or develop initiatives,” Rue said in a newspaper editorial. “If you ignore that, you’re ignoring a premise, a key premise in evaluation science and research.”

On Monday, received from the HHS a copy of the full study, which can now be accessed via a link on the HHS website.

The 196-page report entitled “National Survey of Adolescents and Their Parents: Attitudes and Opinions About Sex and Abstinence” was funded by the HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and conducted by researchers with the Cambridge, Mass.-based Abt Associates. The survey examined 1,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 and their “most knowledgeable parent,” and examined the impact of parent attitudes, parent communication with adolescents, and peer attitudes on adolescents’ choosing to have pre-marital sex or to abstain.

The report had several findings that appeared to controvert conventional wisdom on teen attitudes and sex education. For example, the report found that “adolescents and parents generally oppose pre-marital sex,” adding that adolescents have slightly more permissive views than their parents.

The report found that approximately 70 percent of parents were morally opposed to their teens having premarital sex, while just over 60 percent of teens agreed that only married persons should have sex.

The report also indicated that parental and social attitudes toward sex and abstinence were far more influential than classroom education, even when abstinence-based. Conservative attitudes of parents and peers toward sexual intercourse, reported the researchers, were broadly associated with an adolescent’s choice to abstain from sexual intercourse.

While sex education, including abstinence-based, increased levels of communication about sex between adolescents and their parents, the study found that such communication made no measurable difference on adolescent’s sexual attitudes. Such communication between teens and their peers were broadly associated with “less conservative adolescent attitudes.”

Minority, religious, and low-income households exhibited more conservative views in general about sex and abstinence, according to the report. While black adolescents were more liberal than their parents on sex, Hispanic teens tended to agree with their conservative parents, as did those who attended religious services frequently.

Click here to read the full study.

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Obama Administration Stonewalls Full Release of Major Abstinence Study