The effectiveness of school-based sex education programs in the promotion of abstinent behavior: a meta-analysis

Health Educ Res. 2002 Aug;17(4):471-81. doi: 10.1093/her/17.4.471.


This review presents the findings from controlled school-based sex education interventions published in the last 15 years in the US. The effects of the interventions in promoting abstinent behavior reported in 12 controlled studies were included in the meta-analysis. The results of the analysis indicated a very small overall effect of the interventions in abstinent behavior. Moderator analysis could only be pursued partially because of limited information in primary research studies. Parental participation in the program, age of the participants, virgin-status of the sample, grade level, percentage of females, scope of the implementation and year of publication of the study were associated with variations in effect sizes for abstinent behavior in univariate tests. However, only parental participation and percentage of females were significant in the weighted least-squares regression analysis. The richness of a meta-analytic approach appears limited by the quality of the primary research. Unfortunately, most of the research does not employ designs to provide conclusive evidence of program effects. Suggestions to address this limitation are provided.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation
  • Regression Analysis
  • School Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Sex Education / organization & administration*
  • Sexual Abstinence*
  • United States