A Comparison between Comprehensive Sex Education and Abstinence Based Education

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In many schools across America pre-teens and teens take Sex Education courses. There are some schools that have a comprehensive course while others opt for abstinence centered education. What is the difference between comprehensive sex education and abstinence based education? Is one better than the other?

Although you are taught about abstinence in both courses, the independent courses teach about the subject differently. In the comprehensive course, you learn about abstinence as the only 100% way to avoid diseases and pregnancy but are also taught about contraceptives and safe sex. In an abstinence only course you learn about abstinence asthe only morally right andacceptable behavior. In sex education you might be taught that not only is sex normal, its healthy, but in an abstinence education class you might be taught that sex before marriage has social, psychological, and physical consequences. (Advocates for Youth).

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The differences between these two courses are major! While sex education will give accurate information about condoms, abortion, masturbation, and even sexual orientation, abstinence education will stray from all things taboo and will even fabricate and exaggerate the condom failure rate. Aside from negatively and at times falsely) speaking about condoms, abstinence based courses fail to mention any other uses of contraception. Actually, abstinence based courses tend to only teach about abstinence and the negative consequences of failing to abstain. (Advocates for Youth)

The religious background of abstinence is opposite to the comprehensive route of letting each person decide their own values religious or otherwise. Just as abstinence courses will teach that the only morally correct route for teens is to carry the pregnancy to terms and then give it up for adoption whereas in comprehensive sex education they teach you about every possible option. These options include adoption, abortion, and keeping the baby. (Advocates for Youth). Another big difference between the two methods is their effectiveness. In many cases, comprehensive sex education results in reduced risky sexual behavior, increase in the use of contraception, and a decrease in frequency of sex and sexual partners, even having a hand in delayed sexual debuts. (UNFPA) On the other hand, research shows that abstinence does not stop or delay sex,but it does put young people in greater risk of pregnancy and STI’s.(Underhill K., Montgomery P. and Operario D.). (Paik, Anthony, Kenneth J. Sanchagrin, and Karen Heimer.). The controversy following sexual education has been around quite a while and continues on through the discussion of comprehensive sex education vs. abstinence. The abstinence only programs are up a whopping 21% from 1988’s 2% make up of sex ed in public schools. even while research shows that comprehensive sex education better prepares the youth to have safe sex. (Ephrat Livni).

Advocates of Youth “Sex Education Programs: Definitions & Point-by-Point Comparison” 2001. Ephrat Livni “Study: Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Up” 2014. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). “Emerging Evidence, Lessons and Practice in Comprehensive Sexuality Education, a global review.” UNESCO, 2015. Underhill K, Montgomery P and Operario D, Sexual abstinence only programmes to prevent HIV infection in high income countries: systematic review, BMJ, 2007. Paik, Anthony, Kenneth J. Sanchagrin, and Karen Heimer. “Broken Promises: Abstinence Pledging and Sexual and Reproductive Health.”Journal of Marriage and Family, 2016.

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A Comparison between Comprehensive Sex Education and Abstinence Based Education. (2022, May 07). Retrieved from


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