It appears that for the first time in twenty-five years, the number of sexually active teenagers is decreasing.
According to the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, the percentage of teen girls having sex dropped in 1995 — from a high of 55 percent in 1990 to 50 percent in 1995. The percentage of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 who reported having sex at least once had been rising steadily from 29 percent in 1970 to 47 percent in 1982, and then to 53 percent in 1988, before reaching its high point in 1990.
Additional research sponsored by Health and Human Services' National Institute of Child Health and Human Development indicates a similar trend for teenage males. The percentage of never-married males from age 15 to 19 who have had sexual intercourse declined from 60 percent in 1988 to 55 percent in 1995, reversing a trend measured since 1979.
The surprising trend among teenagers has been attributed, in part, to the effectiveness of the True Love Waits campaign of the Baptist Sunday School Board. Since the campaign's inauguration in 1993, almost one million pledge cards are thought to have been signed by teenagers committed to abstaining from pre-marital sex.
However, according to Richard Ross, BSSB spokesman for True Love Waits, the number of commitments is certainly much higher. Last year, at least 60,000 churches participated in the TLW campaign, but there was no system in place to track the number of signed pledge cards.
Regardless of record keeping, the trend is catching on among U.S. teenagers and TLW has gotten its share of the credit, both from religious and secular sources. Family Research Council Policy Analyst Gracie Hsu linked the growing abstinence movement in America to TLW.
Faith Popcorn, author of The Popcorn Report (a trends analysis resource, popular among secular marketing strategists), references TLW in her discussion on the rising number of young men who have maintained their virginity.
Virtually every major television news program, syndicated talk show ( television and radio), newsmagazine, and news service has featured the campaign and the growing trend among young people.
The momentum puzzles "safe sex" advocates who have insisted upon widespread birth control education in the public school systems. Their rationale has been that teens can't control themselves and are going to have sex regardless of any emphasis on abstinence. To their dismay, many of our nation's young people are proving their premise wrong.
The popularity of the movement shows no sign of letting up. Presently, church leaders are assisting Christian teenagers in organizing displays of TLW pledge cards on 56,000 secondary school campuses in America. The goal of True Love Waits Goes Campus is simultaneous displays highlighting moral purity, culminating on Valentine's Eve, 1998.
This year, Ross hopes to get a more accurate count of those who make new pledges. For the first time, churches and schools are encouraged to submit reports of the total number of students in their organizations who make TLW commitments.
That total report will then be delivered to the President, leaders in both houses of Congress, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and all state governors and state legislatures.
According to Ross, "We have always known that the total number of teenagers who have made the pledge far, far exceeds the number of cards we have gathered for national displays. After Valentine's Eve, 1998 we will be able to prove to leaders across the country that a challenge to abstinence is a viable message for teenagers, and that teenagers are positively responding to that challenge in amazingly high numbers."
• For materials to assist in organizing True Love Waits Campaigns call 1-800-458-2772.
• For questions about True Love Waits call 1-800-LUV-WAIT.
True Love Waits Media Exposure
TLW Has Been Featured by the Following:
48 Hours, 20/20, The Today Show, The American Agenda with Peter Jennings, Nightline with Ted Koppel, CNN Headline News, CNN Talkback Live, Lifetime Magazine, Oprah, Donohue, Les Brown, Sally Jesse, Leeza Gibbons, MTV, Rush Limbaugh, 700 Club, The Hour of Power.
Newsweek, Time, Life, Mademoiselle, Seventeen, Teen, Vogue, Glamour, Womans Day, Ms. Magazine (front page), USA Weekend Magazine (front page), Modern Maturity, Rolling Stone, Details, Sassy, Playboy, Decision, New Man, The New Republic.
USA Radio Network, Paul Harvey Radio, CBS Radio Network, Family News in Focus, Focus on the Family Radio, Josh McDowell Radio, National Public Radio, Rush Limbaugh Radio, American Family Radio, CNN Radio .
USA TODAY, New York Times, Washington Post (front page), Washington Times (front page), Associated Press, Scripps Howard News Service, Gannett News Service.
Research Supports Abstinence Education
A new study has underscored what conservative pro-family groups have been saying all along: that handing out condoms in school is the wrong way to keep teens from getting pregnant.
Published in Family Planning Perspective, the study showed that parents can best keep their teens from becoming sexually active by doing three things: maintaining a warm and loving relationship with their children; letting teens know that they are expected to abstain from sex until marriage; and avoiding the discussion of birth control. The study showed that each of these by itself doubled the chance that a teen would abstain from sex. But parents who did all three influenced their kids so strongly that their teenagers were twelve-and-a-half times more likely to remain chaste.
The welfare-reform law passed by the 104th Congress and signed by the President allocated $50 million a year in funding for school programs that teach only abstinence.
Washington Times, Jan. 16, 1997; Jan. 29, 1997.