After the promise: the STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges

J Adolesc Health. 2005 Apr;36(4):271-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2005.01.005.


Purpose: To examine the effectiveness of virginity pledges in reducing STD infection rates among young adults (ages 18-24).

Methods: Data are drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative study of students enrolled in grades 7-12 in 1995. During a follow-up survey in 2001-2002, respondents provided urine samples, which were tested for Human Papilloma Virus, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomoniasis. We report descriptive results for the relationship of pledge status and sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates as well as health behaviors commonly associated with STD infection.

Results: Pledgers are consistently less likely to be exposed to risk factors across a wide range of indicators, but their STD infection rate does not differ from nonpledgers. Possible explanations are that pledgers are less likely than others to use condoms at sexual debut and to be tested and diagnosed with STDs.

Conclusions: Adopting virginity pledges as intervention may not be the optimal approach to preventing STD acquisition among young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Abstinence*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*