Virginity Pledges Among the Willing

Delays in First Intercourse and Consistency of Condom Use

Published In: Journal of Adolescent Health, v. 43, no. 4, Oct. 2008, p. 341-348

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2008

by Steven C. Martino, Marc N. Elliott, Rebecca L. Collins, David E. Kanouse, Sandra H. Berry

PURPOSE: The authors examine longitudinal relationships between virginity pledging in adolescence and both sexual initiation and condom use. Prior studies have had mixed results and may not adequately control for prepledge differences between pledgers and nonpledgers. METHODS: Data came from a national sample of 12- to 17-year-olds surveyed in 2001 and reinterviewed 1 and 3 years later. Logistic regression models estimated the association between making a pledge and each outcome. Selection bias was reduced through propensity-score weighting and a rich set of demographic and psychosocial covariates. RESULTS: Pledgers and nonpledgers differed substantially in preexisting characteristics. However, after propensity weighting and statistical controls, pledging was still associated with delayed intercourse. The authors estimate that in the absence of pledging 42.4% of virgins with characteristics indicating an inclination to pledge initiate intercourse within 3 years; in the presence of the pledge, 33.6% of such youth initiate intercourse. Among those who had sex during this period, pledging was unassociated with condom use. Among those who did not have sex during this period, pledging was unassociated with engagement in noncoital sexual behavior. CONCLUSIONS: Making a virginity pledge appears to be an effective means of delaying sexual intercourse initiation among those inclined to pledge without influencing other sexual behavior; pledging does not appear to affect sexual safety among pledgers who fail to remain abstinent.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.