The Alan Guttmacher Institute   search  
home home about contact e-lists support agi buy help
publications article archive state center media center tablemaker
news release

Rebecca Wind

For Immediate Release: January 18, 2005


Scare Tactics and Negative Sex Ed Messages Less Effective at Reducing Unplanned Pregnancy Than Positive Focus on Contraception

Programs that promote positive attitudes toward contraceptive use rather than focusing solely on the negative consequences of becoming pregnant may be most effective at reducing teen pregnancies, according to a study published today in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. The authors report that sexually experienced teens with positive attitudes toward contraception are more likely than others to use contraceptives; the more positive their attitudes, the more likely they are to use them, further reducing their risk of pregnancy.

Sexually experienced teens' attitudes toward pregnancy, on the other hand, are not associated with whether they become pregnant. These findings highlight the need for pregnancy prevention programs that discuss contraception in a positive light, since it is these attitudes that are most likely to influence effective contraceptive use and are strongly associated with a reduction of pregnancy risk. Yet sex education programs that discuss contraceptives only in the context of their failure rates are increasingly prevalent in the United States.

"The scare tactics and negative messaging used by today's abstinence-only sex education programs put young people in harm’s way," says coauthor Dr. Peter Bearman of Columbia University. "It’s truly shocking how little medically accurate information teens are getting about how to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease. We should be preparing teens to make informed decisions about how to protect themselves and how to eventually become sexually healthy adults."

“Ambivalence and Pregnancy: Adolescents’ Attitudes, Contraceptive Use and Pregnancy," by Hannah Brückner, Anne Martin and Peter S. Bearman, published in the current issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, is based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health).

back to top