Benefits of Delaying Sexual Debut*

What Is Known About Sexually Abstinent Adolescents?

The only way to avoid the health risks of recreational sexual activity is to postpone the initiation of sexual activity until establishing a monogamous, ideally married, relationship for life.  This is commonly known as “sexual abstinence until marriage.”  Sexually abstinent teens live healthier lives.

  • Abstinent adolescents tend to report fewer problems (e.g., smoking, drug use, vandalism) than teens that are sexually active so they do not get the attention of researchers.1
  • White teens are more likely to be abstinent than Black or Hispanic teens;
  • Girls are somewhat more likely to be abstinent than boys;
  • Teens active in religion are more likely to be abstinent than non-religious adolescents;
  • Teens with two parents (and whose parents have high education and income, and communicate an abstinence expectations) are more likely to be abstinent than teens from poor, single-parent families;
  • Teens who live in safe and prosperous neighborhoods are more likely to be abstinent than those who reside in run-down, unsafe ghettos;
  • Teens who do not drink or do drugs are more likely to be abstinent than those who do;
  • Teens who are not sexually abused or molested are more likely to be abstinent than teens who have been sexually abused.
  • Abstinent teens were better off academically, emotionally, and socially than their sexually active peers.2

An article on benefits of abstinence for the adolescent: Not Ready for Sex: An Endorsement for Adolescent Sexual Abstinence


In general, sexual abstinence is an advantage in the process of adolescent growth and development. Consider two teens: one that is intentionally abstinent, and one who is sexually active during the teen years.  The abstinent teen (when compared to the sexually active teen) would have better high school grades, more positive relationships with parents, would be less likely to use alcohol and illegal drugs, would be less likely to be depressed, anxious, or have thoughts of suicide, and would have a more positive outlook on the future.

Although not every teen that has premarital sex will be disadvantaged, the teen who is deliberately and intentionally abstinent will, in general, be a higher achievement and have greater mental and emotional well-being.

* Adapted from “Flying High: Helping Teens Choose Abstinence” by Douglas Abbott, PhD. Synthesis Press, 2011


  • 1. Rector, R. E., Johnson, K. A., Noyes, L. R., & Martin. S. (2003). The harmful effects of early sexual activity and multiple sexual partners among women: A book of charts. The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002. Available online at
  • 2. Abbott, D. A., Hall, S., & Meredith, W. (2005). Family predictors of well-functioning Midwestern adolescents. Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences, 15, 267-278.