May 6, 2016

The Atlantic Features Add Health Research Findings on Purity Pledges

Summary: Using Add Health data, researchers Anthony Paik, Kenneth J. Sanchagrin and Karen Heimer examined the sexual and reproductive health of young women who take purity pledges to remain abstinent until marriage.  They found that most young women break their pledges, and that when they do, those pledge breakers are more likely than their peers to contract HPV or experience nonmarital pregnancy.  

Read the story from The Atlantic:  The Unintended Consequences of Purity Pledges


“The results showed that women who did or did not take abstinence pledges were equally likely to get HPV—about 27 percent of each group would eventually contract the virus, which causes genital warts. Among women who had multiple sexual partners, however, pledge breakers were more likely to get HPV.

The results were even more striking for out-of-wedlock pregnancy: About 18 percent of the girls who had never taken virginity pledges became pregnant within six years after they began having sex. Meanwhile, 30 percent of those who had taken a pledge—and broken it—got pregnant while not married.


‘Our research indicates that abstinence pledging can have unintended negative consequences by increasing the likelihood of HPV and non-marital pregnancies, the majority of which are unintended,” Paik said in a statement. “Abstinence-only sex education policy is widespread at the state and local levels and may return at the federal level, and this policy approach may be contributing to the decreased sexual and reproductive health of girls and young women.'”

Scholarly Source: Paik A, Sanchagrin KJ, Heimer K.  Broken Promises: Abstinence Pledging and Sexual and Reproductive Health.  Journal of Marriage and Family 2016; 78 (2): 546-561. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12279.  Article available online