According to WebMD teens who take virginity pledges are no less sexually active than other teens.
But the results, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggest that virginity pledgers are less likely to protect themselves against pregnancy or disease when they do have sex.
Researchers say the federal government spends about $200 million annually on abstinence promotion programs, which include virginity pledges. Two previous studies have suggested that virginity pledges can delay sex, but researchers say those studies did not account for pre-existing differences between pledgers and non-pledgers.
In the study cited by WebMD, researchers compared the sexual behavior of 289 teenagers who reported taking a virginity pledge in a 1996 national survey to 645 non-pledgers who were matched on more than 100 factors, such as religious beliefs and attitudes toward sex and birth control.
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