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ncompatible. When other people are asked about this topic (both teens and adults), though, it turns out that they take the pretty rational view that abstinence and contraception can and should peacefully coexist. Specifically, when asked:
“Do you wish you/teens were getting more information about abstinence, more information about birth control or protection, or more information about both?”49 percent of teens and 74 percent of adults said both, 7 percent of teens and 13 percent of adults said abstinence, and 13 percent of teens and 9 percent of adults said birth control or protection.
“Do you think the primary message of these [federally funded programs] should be to help teens postpone sex, provide teens with information about birth control or protection, or provide teens with information about postponing sex andbirth control or protection?”65 percent of teens and 62 percent of adults said both, 19 percent of teens and 25 percent of adults said primarily providing information about postponing sex, and 11 percent of teens and 13 percent of adults said primarily providing information on birth control or protection.
According to the author, these findings show that in the real world people do not see sex education as an either-or proposition. He goes on to point out that:
Educating young people about both, therefore, is a “common sense approach.”
One of the other questions about sexuality education also shows common sense but may not be as simple as the survey seems to suggest. When asked if they agree or disagree with this statement, “Federally funded programs should primarily support those programs that have been proven to change behavior related to teen pregnancy,” a clear majority of adults (72 percent) agreed.
I, too, agree at least in theory but I fear this is oversimplified and that without first providing a little more context, the answer is not particularly meaningful. Obviously, we would all like to put our money toward programs that have already been proven to work whether they focus on sex ed or other topics. This is what the Obama administration is doing through its Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative which provides funding to organizations across the country to conduct prevention programming. Tier 1 of this program requires grantees to choose an evidence-based program (from a relatively small list of those that have been rigorously evaluated) and replicate programs “with fidelity.” Many educators agree, however, that this is too limiting because we don’t have enough programs that have been proven effective and the ones that have tend to be narrowly focused both in the topics they cover and the audiences they are intended to reach. Rodriguez says this is why Tier 2 of this program is so important, though it is a much smaller pot of money this funding is going toward innovative approaches and that will hopefully add to our knowledge base about what can be effective.
To Rodriguez, though, the most alarming finding of the survey when it comes to education, is just how low teachers and educators fell on the scale of influence; they were lower than friends, siblings, religious leaders, and the media with just 5 percent of teens ages 12 to 14 and 4 percent of teens ages 15 to 19 noting them as the most influential people when it comes to sex. Rodriguez believes that: “Educators and school administrators need to do some soul searching about why this is. Is it because we’ve censored ourselvesas a result of restrictive policies or fear of controversyto the point that young people just don’t see us as a good source of information?”
The Role of Contraception
The survey’s findings when it comes to contraception are a bit of a study in contradiction. Teens, it seems, think they know everything they need to know in order to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy yet admit they don’t all that much about either the male condom or the birth control pill. Moreover, an alarming number of them believe that contraception is somehow irrelevant to whether they get pregnant. Specifically:
When asked if they agreed with the statement: “I have all of the information I need to avoid an unplanned pregnancy”75 percent of teens ages 12 to 14 agreed as did 86 percent of teens ages 15 to 19.
When asked, how much they thought they know about male condoms and how to use them6 percent of teens ages 12 to 14 thought they know everything, 27 percent know a lot, 50 percent know a little, and 16 percent know nothing.14 percent of teens ages15 to 19 thought they know everything, 50 percent know a lot, 32 percent know a little, and 4 percent know nothing.
When asked how much they thought they know about birth control pills and how to use them2 percent of teens ages 12 to 14 thought they know everything, 12 percent know a lot, 47 percent know a little, and 38 percent know nothing.6 percent of teens ages 15 to 19 thought they know everything, 30 percent know a lot, 48 percent know a little, and 16 percent know nothing.
When asked how much they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “It doesn’t matter whether you use birth control or not, when it is your time to get pregnant it will happen”42 percent of teens agreed and 57 percent of teens disagreed.
As I said, these results seem somewhat contradictory. Teens are committed to preventing pregnancy and think they know how but in order to truly know how they would need all of the information about both male condoms and the pill and few teens even pretend they know it all. (And.
e parents about STDs and longer-acting methods, which are the most effective. One reason parents may not accept these methods, the researchers surmised, is that parents might associate long acting contraception, like IUDs, with an ongoing sexual relationship.
Cori Baill, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and former member of the national medical committee for Planned Parenthood, noted that parents' disapproval of long-acting contraceptive methods may also reflect U.S. historical events around the Dalkon shield, which the paper didn't mention. The Dalkon shield was an aggressively marketed IUD with considerable safety problems.
IUDs aren't accepted in the U.S. for many reasons, across all ages, concerning societal attitudes towards medicine and the memory of the Dalkon shield, said Baill. However, she commented, parents need to understand that the risk of pregnancy outweighs the risk of any contraceptive method, including the IUD.