Reborn a virgin: adolescents' retracting of virginity pledges and sexual histories

Am J Public Health. 2006 Jun;96(6):1098-103. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.063305. Epub 2006 May 2.


Objectives: We examined retractions of virginity pledges and of sexual histories among adolescents taking part in waves 1 and 2 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Methods: Logistic regression analyses were used to compare respondents' reports of virginity pledges and sexual histories at waves 1 and 2.Results. Among wave 1 virginity pledgers, 53% denied having made a pledge at wave 2; after control for confounders, pledgers who subsequently initiated sexual activity were 3 times as likely to deny having made a pledge as those who did not initiate sexual activity (odds ratio [OR] = 3.21; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.04, 5.04). Among wave 1 nonvirgins who subsequently took virginity pledges, 28% retracted their sexual histories at wave 2; respondents who took virginity pledges were almost 4 times as likely as those who did not to retract reports of sexual experience (OR=3.88; 95% CI=1.87, 8.07).

Conclusions: Adolescents who initiate sexual activity are likely to recant virginity pledges, whereas those who take pledges are likely to recant their sexual histories. Thus, evaluations of sexual abstinence programs are vulnerable to unreliable data. In addition, virginity pledgers may incorrectly assess the sexually transmitted disease risks associated with their prepledge sexual behavior.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Behavioral Research
  • Christianity
  • Coitus / psychology*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Sexual Abstinence / psychology
  • Sexual Abstinence / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States