Evaluating State Abstinence Education

Evaluating State Abstinence EducationMontclair State researchers are evaluating New Jersey’s abstinence education programs for middle school students that are funded by the Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Program to make sure that the programs are working for the 7,500 to 10,000 youth who participate in them.

Health Science Professor Joseph Donnelly and Exercise Science and Physical Education Professor Robert Horn have received a grant from the New Jersey Department of Child and Adolescent Health/Division of Family Health Services to conduct a comprehensive five-year evaluation of the efficacy of the state’s school-based abstinence education efforts for students ages 10 to 14. So far, the professors have secured about $350,000 during the initial three years of the project.

“New Jersey is the only state—among the 36 states that offer Title V abstinence programs—to conduct this kind of statewide evaluation,” Donnelly says. To help other states establish effective evaluation protocols, the team will present its initial results at the Second Annual Teen Pregnancy Prevention Conference in Baltimore, Md., at the end of May.

By developing a model evaluation program for New Jersey’s abstinence education programs, the team will be able to provide solid data that will contribute to the program’s future success. Identical surveys and consistent evaluative procedures are providing interesting results.

“These programs are providing a good opportunity for students at this age,” Donnelly notes. “Some 89 percent of program participants have not engaged in sex.” The hope is that abstinence education will encourage abstinence into the high school years, and researchers are trying to determine exactly what makes an abstinence education program successful.  

“There’s a lot of skepticism about abstinence education, yet I’m finding that these programs really are making a positive difference to students,” Donnelly says.