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Virginity Lost, Experience Gained

Your expectations may determine how losing your virginity will affect you down the line.

What Is the Impact of Virginity Pledges?

Teens who take virginity pledges become sexually active later than peers who don't; however, much depends on their age and environment, according to an NICHD study conducted by sociologists Peter S. Bearman, PhD, of Columbia University in New York, and Hannah Brueckner, PhD, of Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

The study, reported in the American Journal of Sociology, analyzed data collected in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a comprehensive survey of 90,000 students in seventh through 12th grades.

Pledgers were more likely than non-pledgers to be religious, of Asian ancestry, lower scoring on a verbal vocabulary test, and involved in a romantic relationship. Pledging had little impact on teens 18 and older, but 16- to 17-year old pledgers delayed sex significantly compared with non-pledgers.

In an environment in which a high percentage of students took virginity pledges, the pledge had little effect on delaying sexual activity. The researchers observed that the pledge had more impact if it is made by a minority.

While delaying sex can have a positive impact on reducing sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy, the research showed that when pledgers became sexually active, they were less likely than non-pledgers to use contraception.

What happens when a teen breaks the pledge? The research showed they experienced no greater loss of self-esteem than non-pledgers who lost their virginity.

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