Patient teenagers: Virginity pledges as a marker for lower sexual activity
*Janet Rosenbaum, Harvard University
Keywords: virginity pledges, adolescent health, sexual behavior, religion, matched sampling, propensity scores.
This study evaluates whether virginity pledges are a marker for less sexual activity among adolescents. Using the Add Health data, wave 2 virginity pledgers (n=289) were matched with non-pledgers (n=645) using exact and nearest-neighbor matching on pre-pledge (wave 1) factors including religiosity and attitudes towards sex and birth control. Five years post-pledge (wave 3), 84% of pledgers denied having ever taken a virginity pledge. Pledgers and matched non-pledgers did not differ in premarital sex, birth control use, sexually transmitted diseases, age of first sex, and lifetime sexual partners, but pledgers had 0.2 fewer past-year partners. Among adolescents predicted to be less likely to forget the pledge, pledgers did not differ from non-pledgers in any sexual behavior, but fewer used birth control. Virginity pledgers are not less sexually active than similar non-pledgers.