Dirty Sex Reports

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dirty Sex Reports

The Heritage Foundation has two new studies that "virginity pledges" decrease sexual activity among the youths who make them. These findings contradict several published academic studies that have found they have no measurable impact and that they may even put youths who take them at risk. There is nothing unusual about this disagreement in itself. But it appears that the Heritage's CDC-funded papers are more than just new studies contradicting previous ones, they are a direct rebuttal to another study that was published recently in The Journal of Adolescent Health.
In an unusual feature of a scientific report, the Heritage team said that Dr. Bearman's team "deliberately misled the press and the public" about some of its findings.
So the Heritage study authors, Rector and Johnson, are accusing Dr. Bearman, the chairman of the sociology department at Columbia University and the author of the study, of lying and making stuff up to support a foregone conclusion. Funny, because it appears that is exactly what they are up to. The most interesting part is that they both use the same data for their reports.
The new findings were based on the same national survey used by earlier studies and conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. But the authors of the new study used different methods of statistical analysis from those in an earlier one that was widely publicized, making direct comparisons difficult.
So how do they come up with different conclusions using he same data?
The team needs to do "a lot of work" on its paper, said David Landry, a senior research associate at the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York. He said in an interview that it was "a glaring error" to use the result of a statistical test at a 0.10 level of significance when journals generally use a lower and more rigorous level of 0.05.
Mr. Landry also criticized the Heritage team's reliance on self-reports of sexually transmitted diseases among those who took the pledge, saying that group would be less likely to report them. "The underreporting problem is so severe that it makes that data highly questionable," Mr. Landry said.

Dr. Bearman said: "Our analyses showed that pledgers are less likely to get tested for S.T.D.'s, be diagnosed as having an S.T.D. and to see a doctor because they are worried about having an S.T.D. Most S.T.D. infections are asymptomatic, and therefore, people don't know that they have an S.T.D. unless they get tested. The use of self-report data for S.T.D.'s is therefore extremely problematic."
The Heritage Foundation's study was paid for by the CDC and, thus far, has not been published by any peer-reviewed journal. But if their research or data is bad, then they never will be. But what need do they have for that when they can just publish it themselves? What I really don't understand is that if you really care about promoting abstinence and sex-after-marriage, who is it helping to lie about the success of virginity pledges?

Looks like just another example of the right putting their conservative ideology before science, academic research standards or public safety.

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