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Difference Between Abstinence Only Education and Comprehensive Sex Education

Abstinence only education and comprehensive sex education talk about being responsible in expressing one’s sexuality. Both of them encourage abstinence; however, comprehensive sex education also endorses other kinds of methods such as the use of condoms, pills, and injectables.  As its name suggests, comprehensive sex education covers other topics like adoption, pregnancy, and parenthood. There have been critics from both sides such as comprehensive sex education is encouraging premarital sex and abstinence only education is actually ineffective.  The following discussions further look into these distinctions. 

 

What is Abstinence Only Education?

Abstinence only education is also sometimes referred to as abstinence-centered education. It teaches that abstaining from sexual intercourse is the only morally correct choice among teens and young adults. Its proponents assert that sexual pleasure is mostly found within the bond of marriage. This kind of education usually censors information regarding the use of barrier, hormonal, and other natural methods. However, some studies have shown that this kind of approach is ineffective in lowering HIV risk and unplanned pregnancy as compared to comprehensive sex education. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend this kind of education since it is not that helpful in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Also, abstinence only is considered by many as unrealistic due to the more liberated culture of most societies. 

 

What is Comprehensive Sex Education? 

Comprehensive sex education (CSE) teaches abstinence as well as other methods like the use of condoms, pills, and injectables. It covers the appropriate use of different kinds of contraception to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) along with unintended pregnancy. Moreover, this kind of approach includes interpersonal skills, values formation, options exploration, and goals setting. In the CSE curriculum, decreasing domestic and sexual violence is also highlighted. It is comprehensive since it aims to help develop a holistically healthy community.  The topics go beyond sexual expression as it considers proper communication with respective partners, getting tested for STDs, pregnancy, and parenting.  Research has shown that CSE has been effective in decreasing unplanned pregnancy and STIs as it acknowledges the reality that there are a number of people who are engaging in premarital sex. However, its critics are against such approach to be adopted by the country’s education system since it may encourage premarital sex among families who believe that sexual expression should only be within the sanctity of marriage. 

 

Difference between Abstinence Only Education and Comprehensive Sex Education

  1. Morality

Abstinence only education views not engaging in sexual intercourse as the only morally acceptable behavior. It also usually endorses only one specific religious belief.  However, comprehensive sex education is more liberated as it considers various moral views on the expression of one’s sexuality. 

  1. Sexual Expression 

Abstinence only education views sexual expression as sacred and it should only be within the sanctity of marriage. It discusses premarital sex as psychologically, emotionally, socially, and physically disadvantageous. On the other hand, comprehensive sex education looks at sexual expression as a natural part of an individual and it may be responsibly manifested outside marriage. 

  1. Abstinence

Abstinence only education advocates abstaining from sexual intercourse as the only suitable behavior among unmarried individuals. As for comprehensive sex education, abstinence is highly encouraged but it also considers the utilization of other methods such as using condoms, taking pills, and getting injections. 

  1. Sexuality- Related Topics 

Abstinence often limits the topics to not engaging in premarital sex as well as its possible negative effects. As for comprehensive sex education, other pertinent topics such as sexual orientation, abortion, human development, masturbation, and relationships are discussed. 

  1. Effectivity

As compared to abstinence only education, comprehensive sex education has shown more promise in decreasing the rates of unplanned pregnancies and the contraction of STIs since it acknowledges the reality that many adolescents are sexually active. 

  1. Critics 

Abstinence only education has been critiqued to be unrealistic and ineffective since a number of adolescents are already sexually active and that it does not really lower the risk for unwanted pregnancy and STIs. On the other hand, comprehensive sex education has been critiqued to encourage premarital sex; this is especially disadvantageous for families who believe that sexual expression outside marriage is highly immoral. 

  1. Education in the USA

As compared to abstinence only education, comprehensive sex education tends to be endorsed more often among the curricula in the country. Some private schools which adhere to a certain religious practice are usually the ones which strongly advocate abstinence only education.  

Abstinence Only Education vs Comprehensive Sex Education

 

Summary of Abstinence Only Education vs Comprehensive Sex Education

  • Abstinence only education and comprehensive sex education talk about being responsible in expressing one’s sexuality.
  • Abstinence only education teaches that abstaining from sexual intercourse is the only morally correct choice among teens and young adults.
  • Comprehensive sex education teaches abstinence as well as other methods like the use of condoms, pills, and injectables.
  • Abstinence only education focuses on abstaining from sex while comprehensive sex education covers other pertinent topics such as pregnancy, parenting, and adoption. 
  • As compared to abstinence, comprehensive sex education is more effective in reducing risk for STIs and unplanned pregnancy.
  • The critics for abstinence only education include being ineffective and unrealistic while that of comprehensive sex education is encouraging premarital sex. 
  • Regarding education in the USA, comprehensive sex education which is viewed as more realistic and effective is more often endorsed as compared to abstinence only education. 

 

gene balinggan

Gene Balinggan is a Registered Psychologist, licensed professional teacher, and a freelance academic and creative writer. She has been teaching social science courses both in the undergrad and graduate levels. Some of the major subjects which she is handling are Theories of Personality, Experimental Psychology, Historical Foundations of Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology.She co-authored a manual in General Psychology and a textbook, “Understanding the Self”. She is also currently the Psychology-Behavioral Science Society adviser in their university. Gene has also been a research adviser and panel member in a number of psychology and special education paper presentations. Her certifications include TESOL (Tampa, Florida), Psychiatric Ward Practicum Certification (Baguio General Hospital), Outcome-Based Education, and Marker of Diploma Courses (Community Training Australia). She finished her BS Psychology at Saint Louis University and her MAT Special Education and MA Psychology at the University of the Cordilleras.

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References :


[0]Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sex_education.jpg

[1]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/3312081334

[2]Doan, Alesha and Williams, Jean Calterone. The Politics of Virginity: Abstinence in Sex Education. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2008. Print. 

[3]Taverner, Bill and Montfort, Sue. Making Sense of Abstinence: Lessons for Comprehensive Sex Education. Newark, NJ: Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey, 2005. Print. 

[4]Rutgers. Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Rutgers International, 2019, https://www.rutgers.international/what-we-do/comprehensive-sexuality-education/what-comprehensive-sexuality-education

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