You Need Standards and Guidance to Reduce Risky Behavior

Source: "Research Finds Parallels Between Sexual Risk Avoidance Approach and Successful Public Health Campaigns to Prevent Teenage Drinking, Smoking, and Reckless Driving," House Energy and Commerce Health Committee, 06 July 2012.

Source: "A Better Approach to Teenage Pregnancy Prevention: Sexual Risk Avoidance," U.S. House of Representative Committee on Energy and Commerce, July 2012.

The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee released a report on which strategy more effectively prevents unintended pregnancies and STD's in teenagers. "The report analyzes Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA), an abstinence-centered approach to sex education, along with Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE), an alternative type of sex education that takes a value-neutral approach with a core message of risk reduction. The report finds that SRA is the better approach ..." SRA emphasizes risk avoidance, though it does talk about contraceptives. The central message is that abstinence is the better choice for teenagers. CSE emphasizes risk reduction. It admits that abstinence is an effective choice but also says that teenagers cannot or will not avoid sex. "CSE continues to teach that contraception is the best protection against an unplanned pregnancy."

"CSE has done little in the past 20 years to impact rates of teenage pregnancy."

"CSE has failed to lower rates of teenage pregnancy because it assumes that preteens and teens are fully capable of making decisions without adequate guidance. By contrast, a clear understanding of teenage behavior is why public health campaigns against teenage drinking, smoking, and reckless driving have been relatively successful. They are not value neutral when it comes to teenage choices, especially those with public health ramifications. These programs set realistic and ageappropriate expectations for the teens and then show them how to avoid the risky behaviors. SRA is modeled on that successful reasoning."

"Young people experience profound physical, cognitive, and emotional changes during adolescence. The physical changes are the most obvious, but other changes during adolescence are equally significant, especially those that challenge personal identity and emotional independence. Teenage thinking can be egocentric and unrealistic with little appreciation for how things actually work. Teens test limits and take risks behavior that is normal and useful during adolescence. However, for many, unsupervised and reckless behavior can often become too risky and even dangerous.

In general, teens take more risks than younger and older individuals even as they lack the proper controls to manage them. Behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, driving, and sexual activity involve considerable risk, especially for teens who have not mastered two important skills planning and risk assessment. According to Dr. Laurence Steinberg, Professor of Psychology at Temple University, the ability to regulate impulse, think ahead, plan, and weigh risk and reward develop gradually in a teen and are often not complete until the mid-twenties. High rates of underage drinking, car accidents, unplanned pregnancy and STIs among teens support the view that most teens are unable to manage the risks associated with these behavioral choices even when provided with warnings."

You would think that this is obvious. Young people are still learning. To assume they can make good moral choices without a standard of what constitutes a good choice is foolish. The government has just discovered the truth of what Solomon wrote 3,000 years ago:

"My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones." (Proverbs 3:1-8).

"Across the board, children who have a close relationship with their parents are less likely to have behavioral problems or engage in high risk behaviors."