Do Evangelical-Raised Teens Have Sex Earlier?

July 27, 2007 08:09 – 08:09

There’s an interesting piece by Michael Gerson in today’s (7/27/2007) Washington Post. In The Kind of Village it Takes, he writes about recent trends, investigating the seemingly incongruous notion that kids being raised in evangelical families are putting out earlier than mainstream protestants. I really enjoyed this paragraph’s punch line:

When the statistics on teen sexuality are controlled for social and economic factors, conservative Protestant teens first have sex at about the same time as their peers — the average is midway through their 16th year. That is hardly comforting to conservative Protestant parents, who would expect more bang for the bucks they spend funding Sunday schools — well, actually, less bang.

Unfortunately, the article is badly written at points, making it difficult to determine whether Gerson actually answers the question. When he says this:

But these numbers shift when controlled for religious intensity. For those who attend church often, sexual activity is delayed until nearly 17, while nominal evangelicals begin at 16.2 years, earlier than the national average.

Does “those who attend church often” refer to all teens, or just to evangelicals? If “the national average” harkens back to the previous paragraph, then teens in the U.S.—regardless of religion—start sexing it up at 16.5, on average. Hence, since [nominal] evangelicals begin at 16.2 on average, they are sexually active earlier. What we’re left with is not knowing if “those who attend church often” refers only to evangelicals, or to all teens (which would include Unitarians).

If it’s the latter, then one can hardly credit evangelical training. It’s simply a matter of being more involved in the church—regardless of what’s being said or taught there.

If it’s the latter, then the author of the article suffers from the notion that all “Sunday schools” are hotbeds of indoctrination. Clearly, he’s never experienced Unitarian religious education. He’s also probably unaware of OWL classes, which go well beyond the Sunday experience, offering intensive sex education that is outside the standard UU r.e. experience. The basic idea of OWL (Our Whole Lives) is that kids are so busy learning about sex that they don’t actually have time for sex itself. Not really. But, maybe. J

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