Taking a pledge to remain a virgin until they are married may delay the age at which some young people start experimenting with sex, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
According to researchers, waiting until a person is older to have sex is good from a health standpoint. The study showed that teens who vowed to remain virgins until they are married were less likely to be sexually active over the three-year study period than other youth who were similar to them, but who did not make a virginity pledge.
"These findings do not suggest that virginity pledges should be a substitute for comprehensive sexual education programs, or that they will work for all kinds of kids" said Steven Martino, the study’s lead author and a psychologist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
"But virginity pledges may be appropriate as one component of an overall sex education effort," he added.
Earlier studies have examined the impact of virginity pledges, but the new research was uniquely designed to account for pre-existing difference between pledgers and non-pledgers on factors such as religiosity, parenting and friendship characteristics.
In the new study, researchers tested the impact of virginity pledges by comparing pledgers with young people who had not made a pledge, but shared other characteristics with pledgers. They surveyed 1,461 adolescent virgins aged 12 to 17 in 2001 and re-interviewed participants one and three years later.
"Making a pledge to remain a virgin until married may provide extra motivation to adolescents who want to delay becoming sexually active," Martino said. "The act of pledging may create some social pressure or social support that helps them to follow through with their clearly stated public intention," he added.