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February 15, 2013 Print

All the Single Ladies

by Jeff Johnston

If you watched Beyoncé perform at the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago, whatever else you thought, she got one thing right: young ladies should hold out for a wedding ring. Not to do so is to invite all kinds of problems, as we know that young, unmarried women who engage in sexual activity are at risk for a number of potential risks, ranging from the physical to the emotional, the psychological to the relational, and the social to the spiritual.

A new paper, “At Risk: Single Young Women Having Nonmarital Sex,” published in the Journal of Human Sexuality highlights some of these risks and reports that, sadly, young women are being impacted at earlier and earlier ages. The paper, by Dr. Douglas A. Abbott, PhD, a professor of child, youth and family studies at the University of Nebraska, and Dr. Michelle Cretella, MD, vice president of the American College of Pediatricians, gives a thoughtful analysis of current research and thinking about youth who are sexually active and those who choose abstinence.

The authors explain that as children enter adolescence, their brains are still developing and don’t fully mature until the mid-twenties. Because of this lag in brain development, young people have poorer impulse control, don’t always think about future consequences, have brains that are more impacted by alcohol and drugs, underestimate risk-taking, and are more susceptible to peer and cultural pressure.

Given the huge stakes for young women who have nonmarital sex, including unwed pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, depression, increased rate of divorce, dating violence, and possibility of infertility, the authors argue for “risk avoidance” – abstinence education – as the first strategy for dealing with youth. They note that most parents, and even most adolescents, believe sexual behavior should be reserved for marriage.

There’s more, so check out the article yourself. And in related good news, a bill with increased funding for abstinence education was introduced in Congress yesterday. Here’s an announcement from the National Abstinence Education Association with more details: The Abstinence Education Reallocation Act Introduced with Bipartisan Congressional Support.

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