Sex education has little impact on teen pregnancy

Sex education has failed to tackle teenage pregnancy rates over the last 40 years, an academic analysis of the data concludes.

Professor David Paton looked at the statistics and says the under-16 pregnancy rate has not fallen significantly in four decades.

He thinks more should be done to reduce the number of youngsters having sex, rather than doling out condoms and contraceptive pills.


But the sex education lobby has attacked his conclusions, saying that Britain should follow the Netherlands’ “open and accepting attitude” to teenage sex.

Writing in the journal, Education and Health, Prof. Paton said: “Over the past 40 years, millions of pounds have been spent by policy makers on numerous initiatives aimed at cutting teenage pregnancy rates in the U.K.

“However, identifying the impact of policy interventions on trends in underage conceptions since 1969 presents something of a challenge.


“Indeed, it is striking that the rate of conceptions to under-16s in England and Wales was almost exactly the same in 2009 as 40 years previously.

“Over this period, there have been a number of temporary movements in the series both up and down, but it is very difficult to establish a strong case that standard policy interventions have been at the root of such changes.”

He concluded that “despite recent decreases in the overall underage conception rate, unwanted pregnancy amongst minors in England and Wales has proved remarkably resilient to policy initiatives implemented by different Governments over the past 40 years.


“Looking forward, the time appears ripe for a shift in focus from policies aimed at reducing the risks associated with underage sexual activity to those which are aimed more directly at reducing the level of underage sexual activity.”

But a spokeswoman for sexual health charity, Brook, said the under-16 pregnancy rate in 2010 was the lowest since 1969.

She also said Britain should follow the Netherlands’ example because the Dutch had “an open and accepting attitude towards teenage sexuality, widely available information and sex education, and easy access to confidential contraceptive services”.

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