Nov 20, 2012


The Abstinence-Only intervention is designed to encourage abstinence to eliminate the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in African-American adolescents.  An experimental evaluation of this program found that participants had reduced the likelihood of sexual initiation and recent sexual intercourse over a 24-month follow up, when compared with a control group.  The intervention did not have significant impacts on number of sexual partners, consistent condom use, or unprotected sexual intercourse.


Target Population: African-American adolescents in grades six and seven (aged 10-15 years).

The Abstinence-Only intervention is a manualized, brief, group program designed for use with middle school students.  The program aims to increase knowledge of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, strengthen behavioral beliefs supporting abstinence, and increase skills to negotiate abstinence and resist pressure to have sex.  This program does not use a moralistic tone or portray sex in a negative light.  Rather, it promotes abstaining from sex until a time in life when the individual is more prepared to handle the consequences of sex.  The program is delivered by trained interventionists in two 4-hour sessions.  The sessions are highly structured and include group discussions, videos, games, brainstorming, experiential exercises, and skill building activities.


Jemmott, J. B., Jemmott, L. S., & Fong, G. T. (2010). Efficacy of a theory-based abstinence-only intervention over 24 months. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 164, 152-159. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.267

Evaluated Population:  The sample consisted of 261 African-American adolescents who were recruited for participation from 6th and 7th grades at 4 public middle schools in a Northeastern city.  This is a sub-sample from a larger study that included additional intervention conditions.  The average age was 12 years.

Approach:  Students were stratified on age and gender, and then randomized to receive either the Safer Sex-Only intervention (n=129) or a health promotion control intervention (n=129).  Another treatment group was also created; this treatment focused on abstinence. Two additional conditions were also examined, specifically an 8-hour and a 12-hour comprehensive abstinence plus safer sex intervention and an abstinence-only intervention. The group in the health promotion control intervention was used as the control for each intervention. All students attended 8 hours of intervention, which was completed in two 4-hour sessions on Saturdays in classrooms at the participating schools.  The Safer Sex-Only intervention was based on social cognitive theory and sought to provide information on HIV/STIs, to increase beliefs to encourage condom use, and to enhance skills for using condoms and negotiating the use of condoms. The health promotion control condition focused on behaviors related to heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers.  This control condition was designed to control for the effects of group interaction and special attention.  Participants completed outcome assessments at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and 3-, 6-, 12-, 18, and 24-month follow-ups.  At each time point, participants reported their sexual activity in the past 3 months including: sexual intercourse, unprotected sexual intercourse, number of sexual partners, and consistent condom use.  They also reported whether or not they had ever had sexual intercourse. Half of the participants in each group were randomly chosen to receive booster sessions to enhance the efficacy of the intervention.

Results:  Participants in the abstinence-only group had significantly reduced sexual initiation and recent sexual intercourse when compared with those in the control condition.  No significant differences were found between the groups on consistent condom use, unprotected sexual intercourse, or number of sexual partners. However, the abstinence-only group that got a booster intervention maintenance treatment were less likely to have multiple partners.



Jemmott, J. B., Jemmott, L. S., & Fong, G. T. (2010). Efficacy of a theory-based abstinence-only intervention over 24 months. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 164, 152-159. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.267

Contact Information

John B. Jemmott III, Ph.D.

Department of Psychiatry

Center for Health Behavior and Communication Research

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

3535 Market St., Suite 520

Philadelphia, PA 19104-3309


KEYWORDS:  Children (3-11), Adolescents (12-17), Middle School, Males and Females (Co-ed), Black/African-American, Urban, Skills Training, STD/HIV/AIDS, Sexual Activity, Condom Use and Contraception

Program information last updated on 11/20/12.