Religion Helps Prevent Teen Pregnancies, Survey Says

But the Clergy Have Little Direct Influence on Decisions

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WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 26, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Religious teen-agers in the United States are less likely to have sex outside marriage even though few teens are influenced in their decision by clergy, a new study says.



Four in 10 teens say religious and moral beliefs are what most influence their "decisions about whether to have sex," according to a survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey was reported in the Washington Times.

But just 6% of teen-agers said ministers and rabbis had a big influence on these decisions. Half said their parents were "most influential" in these decisions.

After moral considerations and parental influence, the factors most influencing teen decisions on sex were worries about disease (17%) or pregnancy (15%).

Religious activity and parental influence combine to be the strongest factors in preventing teen pregnancy, said political scientist William Galston, chairman of the campaign´s task force on religion and public values.

From a record high in 1991, the number of teen pregnancies dropped by 19% in 1997 -- to 872,000, or 94.3 pregnancies per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19 -- according to the most recent data.

The survey found that just 10% of teens said sex education was a primary influence on their decisions.

In an interview, Isabel Sawhill, president of the campaign, said that schools have been forced to emphasize "reproductive biology" over values and relationships. "They are scared to death to touch moral questions, by and large," she said.

Modern sex education has prompted parents to "pass it off to schools," though parents´ attitudes may be changing, Sawhill said.