Second to black protestant teens, white Evangelical Christian teens have sex earlier than any other cultural or religious teen group, according to a government study of adolescent behavior called Add Health.
Next week's New Yorker magazine explores the possible explanations behind this surprising statistic in an article titled "Red Sex, Blue Sex." For better or worse, Bristol Palin, Sarah's 17-year-old expectant daughter, has become the poster child for all that fails in the abstinence-only, virginity-pledge system. As the article points out, virginity pledge groups work only when participation is kept below 30 percent of a specific population. If too many girls join in the pledge at a high school, for example, it no longer is exclusive and cool, and the efficacy breaks down.
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In conservative religious communities, once a teen is pregnant and chooses not to have an abortion, she's often praised for her decision. According to the Add Health study, these attitudes—as opposed to the "embarrassment" that Jewish teens reported they'd feel in that situation, for example—tend to undermine the abstinence messsage.
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But the teen pregnancy rate is not only tied to religion. In 2004, the states with the highest divorce and teen pregnancy rates were all red. The majority of the states anchoring the low end of the list were blue or swing. One possible explanation for this is that conservative messaging often excludes open discussions about sex and contraception.
The don't ask, don't tell approach to teen sex seems to be as effective a method as not talking to your kids about drugs. And based on the national ads, that's not a very wise idea. As for divorce statistics, it seems if you live in a red state in a city that does not have a Major League Baseball team, the odds are kinda stacked against you. Seems crazy, right? Share your thoughts below.