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School Program Helps Boys Say No to Sex

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A middle-school program aimed at changing kids’ attitudes toward sex helped keep boys from having sex for the first time, researchers report.

A middle-school program aimed at changing kids’ attitudes toward sex helped keep boys from having sex for the first time, researchers report. The same was not true of girls, however, according to findings published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The reason for the gender difference is not completely clear, but the study authors suspect pressure from girls’ older boyfriends may have outweighed the program’s messages. The program, dubbed “Draw the Line/Respect the Line,” was tried out in 10 middle schools in an urban area of California. Nine similar schools were studied for comparison. Researchers followed more than 2,800 sixth-graders for three years to see if those who took part in the program would have different attitudes and behaviors when it came to sex. They found that by ninth grade, 19 percent of boys who were in the program had started having sex, compared with 27 percent of those who did not take part. But the program seemed to make little difference in whether girls started having sex; 20 percent had had sex by ninth grade, versus 22 percent of other girls. Dr. Karin K. Coyle of Scotts Valley, California-based ETR Associates, which developed the Draw the Line program, led the study. It seems that the potential “power differences” in a relationship between an older boy and younger girl may have played a role in the lack of effect seen among girls, Coyle told Reuters Health. Overall, she and her colleagues found, nearly 30 percent of eighth-grade girls in the study had a boyfriend who was at least two years older, and these girls were “much more likely” than their peers to have had sex. The Draw the Line program did not address the issue of older boyfriends, and Coyle said, “We certainly would include that issue in future programs.” According to Coyle, the program was designed to give kids basic information about the potential consequences of unprotected sex, as well as ways to avoid having sex. In 20 lessons given over three years, students learn ways to retain the sexual “limits” they set for themselves, as well as the importance of respecting others’ limits. They also learn about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and how to cut these risks with condoms. Coyle said the curriculum’s “primary message” is that delaying sex is the best choice for middle-school students.She and her colleagues found that compared with their peers, boys who took part in the program had greater knowledge about HIV and condom use, had more positive attitudes toward delaying sex, and had set “stronger sexual limits” for themselves. Similarly, girls in the program were more knowledgeable about HIV and condom use than their peers were, and they were less likely to feel that having sex was the “norm” among their classmates. However, this did not translate into girls’ sexual behavior, the researchers found. As for condom use, there was no evidence the program changed either boys’ or girls’ behavior, as there was little difference in the number of students in each group who said they used a condom the last time they had sex. However, Coyle noted, relatively few students reported having sex recently, and the small numbers made it hard to detect a difference in condom use. (SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health: Reuters Health News: May 2004.)

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Posted On: 22 May, 2004
Modified On: 5 December, 2013

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