How the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Movement was Successful in the Early 2000's

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Middlebury College
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The Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program was a Federal Government program that began in the 1980s under the Regan administration. Despite opposition and criticism from researchers and social organization on the ineffective aspect of the program, the government exponentially funded the program in all the States that had an interest. Between the years 1996 and 2006, funding grew and covered other social and family health care programs. Until the year 2010, Congress funneled billions of dollars on the program. The program focused on teaching psychological, social, and health gains of abstaining from sexual activity. Under the program, the term abstinence education, referred to a motivational or education teaching program. The program also focused on creating awareness on the importance of building a faithful monogamous marriage. Other objectives of the program included urging the youth to abstain from getting involved in getting children out of wedlock and accomplish self-reliance before engaging in sex escapades. Prior to 2000, the society as a whole in addition to the Federal government took the interest of the youth at heart, a fact that motivated young people to live as per the expectations of the society. Therefore, the program became a success during its early years and before the year 2000, as it was a societal initiative to modeling the youth to self-sufficient citizens who partake only in good activities. Young adults in the early periods of the program adhered to the teachings of the society such as morality while at the same time, focusing on improving on their personality attributes such as sexual responsibility, a fact that saw the success of the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Movement.

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Governments across the world are profoundly affected by the cases of teenage pregnancies and more so the possible infections that are contracted because of premarital and unprotected sexual intercourse (Underhill et al. 76). Besides, adopting an agreeable age of sexual consent, the governments and the community as a whole have gotten involved in sensitizing the targeted generations on the risk in irresponsible sexual behaviors. In the United States, the governments over the years have sponsored sexual education programs in public institutions that target the young generation (Collins et al. 98). Before the year 2000, research revealed that the use of birth control declined in males from 81 percent to 66 percent. For females, abstinence increased from 74 percent to over 83 percent.

According to Collins (99), the research carried out by the National Survey of Adolescents and the National Survey of Family Growth the resultant lower proportion was because of less formal instruction about birth controls and abstinence. Additionally, the research discovered and unveiled that teenagers who receive formal instruction on abstinence and sexual education have a higher chance of engaging in sexual activities than teens that do not get any sexual teaching. The findings concluded that substantial instructions on sexual matters increase chances of young adults, engaging in sexual practices than those without any formal instructions. However, a different study by the World Health Organization in 2002 revealed that before the year 2000, teenagers who never received any form of sexual instruction became the greatest victims of sexual abuse and engagement and practices than those who receive a formal education in sexual matters. Collins (100) maintains that the stark differences in the two findings reveal that despite any form of formal education on matters sexual, chances of teenagers engaging in sexual practices remain high.

However, it is worth noting that before the year 2000, information broadcast and access to information was limited. The revolution of information technology and the internet has exposed a significant number of teenagers and young adults to a world of adult material, compromising on their moral values and principles (Jemmott 34). In the early and late 70s, the society had well-established moral guidelines on matters sexual as compared to the end of 2000. It is worth noting that before the year 2000, the community paid more emphasis on child rearing as a collective responsibility that helped many parents raise children of sound moral and ethical values. Santelli et al. (10) argue that teenagers were provided with instructional education on life skills, which included aspects such as family life, marriage, and their responsibility in the society.

Youth Empowerment. The emphasis of the program such as focusing on educating the youth on some of the failure aspects of contraceptives motivated the young people to focus more on avoiding sexual encounters instead of partaking in the use of contraceptives. The success of the program, therefore, is attributed to urging the young people to focus more on the cause of sexual programs instead of the mitigating solutions of sexual products such as the use of contraceptives. According to Doan et al. (36), as compared to current sexual education, young people are exposed to the use of contraceptives as a solution to preventing early pregnancies, an aspect that promotes involvement in sexual encounters instead of building moral characters (Kirby 343). The Many States in the initial years of the Reagan administration focused more on motivating young youths to delay sexual initiation and participation until marriage. Subsequent governments took the mantle and promoted the same moral aspect and the mission of the program for young adults explaining its success before the year 2000. According to Wilson et al. (565), teenagers focused more on building on their character and moral obligations than in fulfilling their sexual needs (Gresle-Favier 404).

Wilson et al. (566) argue that in the year 2000 and later years, researchers, policy makers, and education stakeholders became stronger in criticizing the program with many activists pointing to the fact that the program only promoted conservative ideas about sexuality and sex before marriage. In fact, the activists and critics introduced many ideas such as educating the youth about contraceptives and embracing liberal thoughts about their sexuality. Given such beliefs and principles, the education sector focused more on liberalizing sex education to accommodate differences. Such initiatives in the early years of 2000 brought in a new dimension to the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage program (Gresle-Favier 410). Gradually, the program lost its significance in promoting faith-based upbringing in youths. In place, sex education introduced by most schools and liberal activists brought in new concepts that changed the face of sexuality and sex before marriage.

Loss of Significance. It is worth noting that the movement gradually lost its importance towards the Obama administration. In fact, despite the Title V abstinence still educating the youth on abstinence-only-until-marriage, the youth are exposed to liberal and wide-ranging concepts of sexuality diluting the significance of the program that focused more on strict abstinence. In place, the sex education that gradually took the place of Title V abstinence covered wide-ranging sexual issues than the program did initially. Although the youth widely became knowledgeable on sexual matters, statistics and research indicate that early pregnancies, use of contraceptives, and the transmission of venereal diseases increased threefold. According to Santelli et al. (12), the loss of the programs significance could be seen in the early years of Obamas administration as only 30 states applied for the funding. The majority of the states had gradually moved in to accommodate new sex education curriculum (Kohler et al. 344).

Watered Down. Kohler et al. (345) maintain that the structure, funding, and the logistics of the program changed in the year 2000, young people's minds changed too on their sexuality as majority steered clear of the traditional aspect of the initiative. Despite the brilliant idea behind the program, constant changes and introduction of new structural changed the whole set up. Many states instead focused more on gaining greater control of the funding than on steering the traditional teachings and education of the programs goals. Such structural and political meddling in the program brought in new and different aspects that denied the youth the chance to make gains of leading upright and restricted sexual activities. They simply watered down the abstinence messages of the program with less focus on marriage and the violation of the Title V program. For example, according to Calterone (420), changes were made to fund community-based organizations only; many proponents of the Title V program rebelled and introduced new restrictive measures on the funding. At the prospect of fearing losing funding under the program, some lawmakers introduced legislations in their states that prevented support for youth empowerment, media campaigns, and some school programs as they argued that those programs did not focus on abstinence and marriage as initially outlined. The program thus became less focused on the youth agenda coupled with more legislative infighting on the funding.

Reality. According to Doan et al. (34), many changes in the program changed even the mission statement of the initiative. For example, in the ACF program under the same initiative, youths were urged to adapt to abstinence as they were made to believe in later living a good successful life, coupled with good education, happy family, few psychological complications, and high levels of integrity in the society. However, into life, and in high school and colleges, Hauser and Debra (23) argue that young people continue to grapple with social problems such as joblessness, sexual identity, psychological complications, hard economic times, and life-threatening diseases. As the youths compared the knowledge they accumulated under the program, they came to realize that with or without abstinence before marriage, social problems such as hard economic times, life-threatening diseases remained with them, unlike the knowledge they got under the program (Calterone 417). The youths thus came to adapt to the easy, flexible, and liberal type of living characterized by adventure, fun, and outgoing, social lifestyle. The realization that the program prepared them for an elusive lifestyle prompted many youths later into the years beyond to embrace new ideologies towards their sexuality and marriage.

Inaccurate Medical Information. Doan et al. (56) maintain that the use of incorrect information led many to discredit the educational materials and the information is given out. Before its stop and cutting off its finances by the federal government, medical practitioners, researchers, critics, and scholars argued that the program proved ineffective, as many pregnancies amongst the youth had increased over the years. Researchers have claimed that the program had failed to achieve its core purpose and that is to create awareness and urge the young people to abstain until marriage. However, an in-depth look at their argument revealed that it is their criticism over the years that prompted the need to change the program to a more comprehensive sexual education program in schools.

Governments in-depth Focus: The success of the program before the year 2000 can thus be attributed to the government's broad focus on the affairs of the youth and lack of political interference by legislators. Not only did the government work with community-based organizations to make the program a success, but funding meant for the program was also utilized effectively without any infighting or legislative restrictions. Much focus was thus paid to the youth and the achiev...

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