An independent study of Best Friends, an abstinence program, shows a marked reduction in risky behaviors, including sexual behavior, among high-risk teens in Washington, D.C.
The research shows that girls who have attended the Best Friends program are two times less likely to smoke, two times less likely to drink, eight times less likely to take drugs, and six and a half times less likely to have sex than are respondents to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).
“For every program like Best Friends here in D.C., there are hundreds more across the country that are proving just as successful. What encouraging news in the midst of a sometimes disappointing environment here on Capitol Hill,” said Lanier Swann, Concerned Women for America’s director of government relations. “We have every right to tout these results far and wide, so that parents and their children know that real answers and real truth can be found in the curriculum of authentic abstinence education.”
The Best Friends Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-area pro-abstinence organization, released the results on Wednesday. Conducted by Dr. Robert Lerner, the peer-reviewed study is published in Adolescent & Family Health.
Data analyzed in this study came from questionnaires that participants in the Best Friends program, in grades 6 through 12, fill out at the beginning and end of each school year. The researcher compared these responses to girls taking part in YRBS of Washington, D.C.
The Best Friends girls come from schools with average reading scores similar to and math scores lower than those from the District as a whole. Since these schools are located in wards with higher out-of-wedlock births and higher rates of teen pregnancy, the odds of Best Friends girls versus YRBS girls not having sex are 6.48 to 1, the study stated.
Founded in 1987, Best Friends teaches abstinence to adolescent girls. It now operates in more than 100 schools nationwide and 3,000 girls have attended the program, which encourages them to avoid risky behaviors, provides mentors and helps them develop decision-making skills to avoid risk-taking.
Twenty D.C. schools use the Best Friends program, which aims to reach every political ward in the city by 2006. The Best Men program began in 2000 to teach adolescent boys to abstain from sex, drugs, and alcohol and has more than 1,000 members nationwide.
“Year after year, adolescent girls in our program have demonstrated that the Best Friends curriculum helps them make confident, healthy choices and reject sexual activity, alcohol and drugs,” said Elayne Bennett, president and founder of the Best Friends Foundation. “This study provides concrete evidence that Best Friends girls are far less likely to engage in at-risk behavior than their peers.”