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Thursday, June 07, 2007

***UPDATE***Sex and the meaning of sex

******************************UPDATE**********************

Here is a NYTimes article on this early sex and mental health study. This one gives better information baout the study than the U of M link I give below.

******************************UPDATE**********************

When a teen has sex for the first time, how many do you think will suffer from depresion or low self-esteem as a result?

A. 85%
B. 60%
C. 25%
D. 15%
E. less than 5%



According to a new study by Dr. Ann Meier, University of Minnesota Sociologist, the answer is D. 15% The most likely to have problems are females who have sex at a younger age then their peers and are in unstable or uncommitted relationships.

She is also quick to say that she does not report any positive effects from first sex.

So, let's assume Dr. Meier has done excellent work and her report reflects truth.

What do you suppose is the meaning of this?

What are the implications?

11 comments:

jb said...

One thing I've learned from the Institute of Child Development which I will carry with me to the end of my research life: "One study means nothing."*

Nicki Crik has done some amazing longitudinal research on relational aggression. In a lecture, she bemoaned the fact that there was so little done on the topic, and cautioned us from making any conclusions based on a handful of studies. She gained my instant respect.

- jb

* Of course, one study means something, but very little we can be conclusive about except for what that particular study did. And even then, it can be contentious.

Justin Ray said...

If the report is accurate, I think one thing that can be taken away from this information is that fewer teens undergo adverse psychological reactions to losing their virginity than many would have us think. It is almost like sex is natural or something...

Fajita said...

Good points, both of you. I had similar thoughts.

I think that this says something about how natural sex is and that social construction has a lot to say about the meaning of sex. And yet it is only one study.

I'd bet that if the young teen having first sex came from a group that declared sex to be a dirty or vile thing, but a necessary evil to procreation and that sex was severely punished in that group - that teen would suffer more psychologically.

Sex might be a gift to humanity in the same way fire is. It's a naturally occuring thing, but it cannot just be let to run amuck.

This study hints to the fact that committed relationships is a better place for sex than non-commited relationships.

I have not read the full study, but I question the meaning of committed relationship. How is it defined? I don't think of teens having tons of commitment in their relationships.

I will probably get my hands on the study and dig.

Marshall Brown said...

I go to probably half a dozen high schools and junior highs each year and present abstinence education. Before we ever talk about physical consequences to sex before marriage, we talk about emotional consequences, depression and loss of self-respect being two of them. I am always quick to point out that not everyone experiences these emotional consequences, but that the RISK is still there. One implication from this study is that some might assume that there is little or no risk of emotional consequences to sex outside of marriage, and I don't think that's accurate.

Also, assuming that Dr. Meier's study "reflects truth," I would want to know the ages of the sexual partners. Considering her findings reflected a higher rate of depression and low self-esteem after first-time sex in girls younger than 15, I'm curious as to what the ages of these girls' partners were. My observation (though I have no hard data to back this up!) has been that teenage girls are usually more attracted to and seek relationships with boys who are older than them. A girl in a relationship with an older boy is also more likely to believe that she is in a committed relationship, especially after first-time sex. If the relationship ends quickly, as it often does, I would think there would be a greater likelihood for a girl to exhibit "depressive symptoms," especially if she discovers that her partner was not nearly as committed to the relationship as she was.

This ended up being a rather long comment - sorry. I just hope that this study and others like it don't lead to a ban on abstinence education in schools. I don't know all the different abstinence programs that are out there, but ours is pretty good...even though I'm a little biased.

Nancy said...

Marshall: While I applaud you for spending (your own?) time trying to help teens today, does your abstinence education program have better results than the 11 state programs that "showed few short-term benefits and no lasting, positive impact"? (These results from 11 separate studies funded by each of the 11 states...not just one study.)

See http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/stateevaluations/index.htm

Nancy said...

Sorry, here's the whole URL:

http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/
publications/stateevaluations/
index.htm

Nancy said...

"Sex might be a gift to humanity in the same way fire is. It's a naturally occuring thing, but it cannot just be let to run amuck."

Fajita, LOL! Remember that Saturday Night Live skit where Frankenstein was on a talk show? His line was, "Fire baaaad." I can just see him saying "Sex baaaad."

Fajita said...

I tend to think that abstinence programs are like a vitamin supplement. They are effective when there is a steady diet of nutritious food coming from a main source.

When the abstinence program is in line with the family perspective and their church environment and what other major influences there are in a teen's life, then it is helpful.

Also, there is likely to be a small population of kids in which the abstinence program was the thing that kept them out of a bad situation.

I think it is foolhearty and unfair to think that an abstinence program could have wide spread change for teens in and of itself. It is an important piece to a very large and complex puzzle.


So, I say Marshall ought to keep up his work and plant those seeds of responsibility. Some of them are going to stick.

Marshall Brown said...

Nancy, to be honest, I don't have any hard data about the success or failure of our program (I'm sure our program director does). The program that we use is called "Choosing the Best," and although I saw it mentioned in the link you shared, I didn't see any results about its success or failure. I know we get positive results from our pre- and post-tests, and I know that the school system we are in has been so impressed that they brought us into every middle school, jr. high, and high school in the district this past school year. I also get much more positive than negative feedback from the students I present to.

I am unconvinced with the popular mindset that teens can't help themselves, and that the best thing we can do is throw a bunch of condoms out there and hope for the best.

I'm not naive enough to believe that abstinence programs have the power to completely eliminate teen pregnancy and STDs in our country. I even think that some abstinence programs that I've heard about are irresponsible in their presentations and manipulation tactics.

Probably peer influence and family influence (or lack thereof!) have more to do with teens' sexual choices than anything else. If families were not only educated about risks and consequences AND willing to have conversations about those things with their kids, maybe the results would be different.

Marshall Brown said...

I go to probably half a dozen high schools and junior highs each year and present abstinence education. Before we ever talk about physical consequences to sex before marriage, we talk about emotional consequences, depression and loss of self-respect being two of them. I am always quick to point out that not everyone experiences these emotional consequences, but that the RISK is still there. One implication from this study is that some might assume that there is little or no risk of emotional consequences to sex outside of marriage, and I don't think that's accurate.

Also, assuming that Dr. Meier's study "reflects truth," I would want to know the ages of the sexual partners. Considering her findings reflected a higher rate of depression and low self-esteem after first-time sex in girls younger than 15, I'm curious as to what the ages of these girls' partners were. My observation (though I have no hard data to back this up!) has been that teenage girls are usually more attracted to and seek relationships with boys who are older than them. A girl in a relationship with an older boy is also more likely to believe that she is in a committed relationship, especially after first-time sex. If the relationship ends quickly, as it often does, I would think there would be a greater likelihood for a girl to exhibit "depressive symptoms," especially if she discovers that her partner was not nearly as committed to the relationship as she was.

This ended up being a rather long comment - sorry. I just hope that this study and others like it don't lead to a ban on abstinence education in schools. I don't know all the different abstinence programs that are out there, but ours is pretty good...even though I'm a little biased.

Marshall Brown said...

Nancy, to be honest, I don't have any hard data about the success or failure of our program (I'm sure our program director does). The program that we use is called "Choosing the Best," and although I saw it mentioned in the link you shared, I didn't see any results about its success or failure. I know we get positive results from our pre- and post-tests, and I know that the school system we are in has been so impressed that they brought us into every middle school, jr. high, and high school in the district this past school year. I also get much more positive than negative feedback from the students I present to.

I am unconvinced with the popular mindset that teens can't help themselves, and that the best thing we can do is throw a bunch of condoms out there and hope for the best.

I'm not naive enough to believe that abstinence programs have the power to completely eliminate teen pregnancy and STDs in our country. I even think that some abstinence programs that I've heard about are irresponsible in their presentations and manipulation tactics.

Probably peer influence and family influence (or lack thereof!) have more to do with teens' sexual choices than anything else. If families were not only educated about risks and consequences AND willing to have conversations about those things with their kids, maybe the results would be different.