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Peer Challenge
Cape May County, NJ
Atlantic County, NJ
Cumberland County, NJ
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“Good News for Parents: Jama Study”
Jonathan D. Klein, "Protecting Adolescents From Harm," Journal of the American Medical Association, Sept. 10, 1997, 864-865.

A landmark report published in September, 1997 in the Journal of the American Medical Association brings encouraging news for parents. The study, called the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, was funded by the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services.

The study followed more than 12,000 teenagers from the 7th to the 12th grade. It found that 5 factors had a great impact on decreasing teen sexual involvement and other high risk behaviors:

1) good relationship with parents,

2) clearly expressed disapproval by parents of their teen being sexually active,

3) strong disapproval of their teens using contraceptives,

4) teens having made an abstinence pledge, (3 times more likely to be abstinent than teens who had not made such a pledge)

5) involvement in church activities.

The third point is of, course, a shock for those who think birth control is an essential part of a realistic approach to giving teens sexual guidance.

In this study, the largest of its kind, it would seem that promoting birth control had the unintended consequence of encouraging teen sex. Teens whose parents mentioned birth control apparently heard the message "I expect you will have sex."

This JAMA report shows (once again) that teens don't respond well to mixed messages, that a clear, directive pro-abstinence message given by parents who take time to care about their teenage children will do the most good. And if your kids try to convince you that nothing you say will make a difference, just smile, give them a hug and keep on talking!

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