What Works to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Childbearing, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

(WASHINGTON, D.C., May 21, 2002) – How do you prevent teen-age pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)? Do sex education programs work? What role do parents and peers play in teens’ reproductive health choices? To help answer these questions, Child Trends reviewed hundreds of the best research studies available and summarized the findings in a new research brief, Preventing Teen-age Pregnancy, Childbearing, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases: What the Research Shows. An accompanying Web-based What Works table presents the results of evaluations of a variety of strategies to promote adolescent reproductive health.

The findings are based on an extensive review of research studies on adolescent reproductive health, done in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, to identify the specific strategies that contribute to delay teen sexual activity, reduce the likelihood of adolescent pregnancy and birth and lower the chances of teens acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.

Studies of sex education and HIV education programs, which are part of many schools’ curriculums, have yielded mixed results, with several having positive impacts on reproductive health behaviors for at least some groups of teens, while others were not effective. Only one abstinence-only program has been evaluated with a rigorous experimental design so far, and it did not have a significant impact on the initiation of sex, frequency of sex, or number of sexual partners. Additional large-scale evaluations of abstinence programs are under way now and should provide additional information on the effectiveness of this approach.

Among the approaches found to be promising are:

  • involving adolescents in school, extracurricular projects, volunteering and religious activities;

  • encouraging strong parent-teen relationships and vigilant parent monitoring; and

  • discouraging such risky behaviors as drug and alcohol use and dating older partners.“Adolescent reproductive health remains an important issue for teen-agers, families and communities,” said Jennifer Manlove, Senior Research Associate at Child Trends. “This research should be used by those who want to develop the best possible programs to help teens improve their reproductive health behaviors.”The brief was released today along with a companion Web-based What Works table that enable users to easily find “what works,” “what doesn’t work,” and some “best bets” to prevent pregnancy, reduce childbearing and lower the rate of STDs among teens.

    View and download the brief, Preventing Teen-age Pregnancy, Childbearing, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases: What the Research Shows, at www.childtrends.org/Files/K1Brief.pdf.  Click here to view the interactive What Works table and the rest of the American Teens series.

  • Child Trends’ American Teens series summarizes and “translates” key research and evaluation studies on preventing teen pregnancy, encouraging better eating and exercise habits, promoting mental and emotional health, motivating teens in school, promoting positive social skills and encouraging responsible citizenship. 

    Schedule of Release Dates for American Teens Series

    Preventing Teen-age Pregnancy, Childbearing, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases: What the Research Shows

    May 21, 2002

    Encouraging Teens to Adopt a Safe, Healthy Lifestyle: A Foundation for Improving Future Adult Behaviors

    June 25, 2002

    Helping Teens Develop Healthy Social Skills and Relationships: What the Research Shows about Navigating Adolescence

    July 23, 2002

    Educating America’s Youth: What Makes a Difference

    August 27, 2002

    Promoting Positive Mental and Emotional Health in Teens: Some Lessons from Research 

    September 16, 2002

    Encouraging Civic Engagement: How Teens Are (or Are Not) Becoming Responsible Citizens

    October 29, 2002

    Building a Better Teen-ager: A Summary of “What Works” in Youth Development

    November 12, 2002