Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and policies are a failure



Two scientific review papers released today show that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and policies in the United States are ineffective as they do not delay sexual initiation or reduce sexual risk behaviors. They also violate adolescent human rights, withhold medically accurate information, stigmatize or exclude many youth, reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, and undermine public health programs. Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have been widely rejected by health professionals who care for young people, including the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. The findings are published online today in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Considerable scientific evidence has accumulated on the lack of efficacy of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs since the authors published a 2006 review in the Journal of Adolescent Health. In contrast, comprehensive programs have favorable effects on multiple adolescent behaviors, including sexual initiation, number of sex partners, frequency of sexual activity, use of condoms and contraception, frequency of unprotected sexual activity, STIs and pregnancy. Comprehensive sex education helps young people remain abstinent, while abstinence-only education does not.

"The weight of scientific evidence shows these programs do not help young people delay initiation of sexual intercourse. While abstinence is theoretically effective, in actual practice, intentions to abstain from sexual activity often fail," said co-author John Santelli, MD, MPH, professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health. "These programs simply do not prepare young people to avoid unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases."

To study current U.S. policies on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, the investigators turned to multiple sources - including scientific research and other review articles focusing on the efficacy of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs - as well as information from human rights organizations.
Given a rapidly rising age at first marriage around the globe, a rapidly declining percentage of young people remain abstinent until marriage. In the U.S. today the gap between the age at first sex and first marriage is 8.7 years for young women and 11.7 years for young men.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage approaches have also set back sex education, family planning programs and HIV prevention efforts, domestically and globally. Between 2002 and 2014, the percentage of schools that require students to learn about human sexuality fell from 67 percent to 48 percent and requirements for HIV prevention declined from 64 percent to 41 percent. In 1995, 81 percent of adolescent males and 87 percent of adolescent females reported receiving formal instruction about birth control methods; by 2011-2013, this had fallen to 55 percent of young men and 60 percent of young women.

"Young people have a right to sex education that gives them the information and skills they need to stay safe and healthy," said Leslie Kantor, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health and vice president of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Withholding critical health information from young people is a violation of their rights. Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs leave all young people unprepared and are particularly harmful to young people who are sexually active, who are LGBTQ, or have experienced sexual abuse."

Congress has spent over $2 billion on domestic abstinence-only programs between 1982 and 2017; current funding is $85 million per year. The U.S. has also spent $1.4 billion on abstinence-only-until-marriage in foreign aid for HIV prevention. Under current guidelines, U.S. states cannot use funds to educate adolescents about contraceptive use or discuss contraceptive methods, except to emphasize failure rates.

"Adolescent sexual and reproductive health promotion should be based on scientific evidence and understanding, public health principles, and human rights," says Santelli. "Abstinence-only-until marriage as a basis for health policy and programs should be abandoned."

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Should I stay or should I leave?

                    

Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.
Now a new study offers insights into what people are deliberating about and what makes the decision so difficult, which could help therapists working with couples and stimulate further research into the decision-making process.
The study, led by U psychology professor Samantha Joel, was published in Social Psychology and Personality Science. Co-authors were Geoff MacDonald and Elizabeth Page-Gould of the University of Toronto.
"Most of the research on breakups has been predictive, trying to predict whether a couple stays together or not, but we don't know much about the decision process -- what are the specific relationship pros and cons that people are weighing out," Joel said.
In the first phase of the study, the researchers recruited three samples of people -- including people who were in the midst of trying to decide whether to break up or not -- to participate in an anonymous survey.
Participants were asked open-ended questions about their specific reasons for both wanting to stay and leave a relationship.
That yielded a list of 27 different reasons for wanting to stay in a relationship and 23 reasons for wanting to leave.
The stay/leave factors were then converted into a questionnaire that was given to another group of people who were trying to decide whether to end a dating relationship or marriage. Those dating had been together for two years on average, while married participants reported relationships that averaged nine years.
In both studies, general factors considered as the individuals deliberated what to do were similar.
At the top of the stay list: emotional intimacy, investment and a sense of obligation. At the top of the leave list: issues with a partner's personality, breach of trust and partner withdrawal.
Individuals in both dating and married situations gave similar reasons for wanting to leave a relationship.
But the researchers found significant differences in stay reasoning between the two groups.
Participants who were in a dating relationship said they were considering staying based on more positive reasons such as aspects of their partner's personality that they like, emotional intimacy and enjoyment of the relationship. Those who were married gave more constraint reasons for staying such as investment into the relationship, family responsibilities, fear of uncertainty and logistical barriers.
And about half of the participants said they had reasons to both stay and leave, indicating ambivalence about their relationships.
"What was most interesting to me was how ambivalent people felt about their relationships. They felt really torn," Joel said. "Breaking up can be a really difficult decision. You can look at a relationship from outside and say 'you have some really unsolvable problems, you should break up' but from the inside that is a really difficult thing to do and the longer you've been in a relationship, the harder it seems to be."
Most people, Joel said, have standards and deal breakers about the kind of person they want to date or marry but those often go out the window when they meet someone.
"Humans fall in love for a reason," Joel said. "From an evolutionary perspective, for our ancestors finding a partner may have been more important than finding the right partner. It might be easier to get into relationships than to get back out of them." 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Women's paychecks compose the majority of familiy income leads to both partners depression


The sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s suggested that women and men would have equal shots at happiness -- whether they were their families' primary breadwinners or stay-at-home parents.
However, the reality has been far more nuanced for many families in the U.S. And new research out of the University of Illinois suggests that some mothers' and fathers' psychological well-being may suffer when their work and family identities - and the amount of financial support they provide -- conflict with conventional gender roles.

Researchers Karen Kramer and Sunjin Pak found that when women's paychecks increased to compose the majority of their families' income, these women reported more symptoms of depression.
However, Kramer and Pak found the opposite effect in men: Dads' psychological well-being improved over time when they became the primary wage-earners for their families.

The data sample comprised more than 1,463 men and 1,769 women who participated in the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth. A majority of the individuals in the study, all born between 1957 and 1965, were members of the baby-boom generation. Participants' psychological well-being was measured in 1991 and 1994 using a seven-item scale that assessed their levels of depressive symptoms.

Kramer and Pak found that although women's psychological well-being was not affected by exiting the workforce to become stay-at-home moms, men's mental health declined when they stayed home to care for the kids.

"We observed a statistically significant and substantial difference in depressive symptoms between men and women in our study," said Kramer, who is a professor of human development and family studies.

"The results supported the overarching hypothesis: Well-being was lower for mothers and fathers who violated gendered expectations about the division of paid labor, and higher for parents who conformed to these expectations."

While women's educational and career opportunities have multiplied in recent decades, societal norms and expectations about gendered divisions of labor in the workplace and the home have been slower to evolve, according to the researchers.

Mothers and fathers who deviate from conventional gender roles -- such as dads who leave the workforce to care for their children full time -- may be perceived negatively, potentially impacting their mental health, Kramer and Pak wrote.

The researchers also explored whether parents who held more egalitarian ideas about men's and women's responsibilities as wage earners and caretakers for their families fared better -- and Kramer and Pak found gender differences there as well.

Women in the study who viewed themselves and their spouses as equally responsible for financially supporting their families and caring for their homes and offspring experienced better mental health when their wages and share of the family's income increased.

However, regardless of their beliefs, men's mental health took a hit when their earnings as a proportion of the family income shrank -- suggesting perhaps that "work identity and (the) traditional role of primary earner are still critical for men, even when they have more egalitarian gender ideology," the researchers wrote.

Being dominated on consumer choices can make less-powered partner unhappy


It might not seem like a big deal if you like Coke while your partner likes Pepsi -- but new research suggests preferring different brands can affect our happiness in relationships more than shared interests or personality traits.

"People think compatibility in relationships comes from having similar backgrounds, religion or education," said Gavan Fitzsimons, a marketing professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. "But we find those things don't explain how happy you are in life nearly as much as this notion of brand compatibility."

The findings, "Coke vs. Pepsi: Brand Compatibility, Relationship Power, and Life Satisfaction," were recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Fitzsimons worked with Fuqua colleagues Tanya Chartrand and Grainne Fitzsimons, plus lead author and former Fuqua PhD student Danielle Brick, now at the University of New Hampshire.

The researchers found that partners who had low power in their relationships - those who don't feel they can shape their partner's behavior - tend to find themselves stuck with their partner's preferred brands.

"If you are lower in relationship power and have different brand preferences than your partner, you're probably going to find yourself stuck with your partner's favorite brands, over and over again. This could lead to a death-by-a-thousand-cuts feeling," Brick said. "Most couples won't break up over brand incompatibility, but it leads to the low power partner becoming less and less happy."

Studies in several settings produced the same result. The researchers used brand preferences in soda, coffee, chocolate, beer and automobiles to study individuals and couples, some of whom were tracked over two years. These results were combined with findings on relationship power and happiness.
"It's an extremely robust effect, we found it over and over and over again," Fitzsimons said.

Brick said it's likely these brand compatibility effects have steadily gained strength as brands have evolved to play a bigger role in the daily lives of consumers. But they aren't given the same weight as other relationship-influencing factors because they're not seen as significant.

"If you are a different religion than your romantic partner, you know that if this is an issue you can't work through, then the relationship isn't going to last," Brick said. "Conversely, if you like Coke and your partner likes Pepsi, you're probably not going to break up over it -- but 11 years into a relationship, when he or she keeps coming home with Pepsi, day in and day out, it might start to cause a little conflict. And if you're the low-power person in the relationship, who continually loses out on brands and is stuck with your partner's preferences, you are going to be less happy."

The results have implications for individuals and firms.

"People who are looking for love should maybe consider including brand preferences on their dating profiles," Fitzsimons said. "There's also an opportunity for marketers to seek to be the family brand. Even if two partners have slightly different brand preferences, if they can adopt a joint brand that both are happy about, that might increase happiness for a partner who would otherwise feel unsatisfied."

Fitzsimons said that family branding isn't currently commonplace.

"Some brands are marketed as family-oriented, but that's not the same as reaching out to everyone in the family," he said. "It's tricky, but firms that get it right can have their brand associated with happiness and harmony - and there's nothing better than that."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Men forced to have sex with women


The most frequent strategy used by women forcing men to have sex with them against their will is blackmail and threats, according to researchers at Lancaster University.

This accounted for the experiences of more than one fifth of the men who completed an online survey, the first of its kind in the UK, examining the extent of men who have been 'forced to penetrate' women.

Telling lies, threats to end a relationship, warnings of rumour-spreading and verbal abuse were all cited (22.2%).

The research project, led by Dr Siobhan Weare from Lancaster University Law School, and supported by Survivors Manchester, also found the use of force, such as pinning down with bodyweight or having a weapon, featured high on the list (14.4%).

The least frequent strategy was the administration of drugs non-consensually (1.3%).

Dr Weare explains: "The term 'forced to penetrate' has been coined for these cases because, while they involve non-consensual penile penetration, they do not fall under the offence of rape. The offence of rape can only be committed by men due to the requirement of penile penetration of the victim. In 'forced to penetrate' cases, the offender is the one being penetrated by a non-consenting victim."

All 154 of the UK male survey participants had experienced compelled penetration. The men shared their most recent experience of being forced-to-penetrate a woman, as well as their engagement with the criminal justice system, how they would label what had happened to them, whether they had experienced multiple victimization and emotional and psychological harm.

"Whilst the sample size of 154 may be smaller than typically expected, this must be considered in the context of an issue that is under-reported and under-discussed, and that this is the first and only survey of its kind to be conducted in the UK," added Dr Weare.

"The 'hidden-hidden' nature of this crime and the 'complex' gender dynamics involved means that huge numbers of survey participants were highly unlikely - not because this isn't happening to men - but because many are made to feel too ashamed or feel too distressed to report it."

The majority of the participants who completed the survey reported that they knew the woman, often as an acquaintance or a friend and just over half were in, or had been in, a relationship with the perpetrator.

Only two men said that they had reported their experience to the police and in both instances the case did not make it to court.

'Rape' was the most frequent label used by the participants in describing their ordeal, despite the law not recognising such cases in this way. 'Sex' was used least frequently.

80% of men did not disclose their experience to family or friends and 74.5% had not sought support suggesting that men are left feeling isolated and alone in dealing with their experiences. This is particularly worrying when the findings highlight that men most frequently (20.9%) reported suffering severe negative emotional impacts as a result of what happened to them.

Dr Weare said the findings provided compelling evidence to rebuff two of the most powerful and pervasive stereotypes around men experiencing sexual violence from women.

These are:
  • The presumed inability of women to overpower men due to their 'weaker' physical stature which means this kind of penetration cannot or does not take place
  • Because men are taught to value and enjoy sex they must view all sexual opportunities with women as positive - the 'lucky boy' syndrome.
"Raising public awareness of the issue is crucial to ensure this is no longer a hidden crime," added Dr Weare.

"The findings of this research will enable a greater understanding of such experiences and will help to develop practice and policy in this area, as well as in relation to the broader issue of men who experience sexual violence.

"Whilst it's difficult to state the prevalence of forced-to-penetrate cases in the UK, research in the US in 2010 found that approximately one in 21 men (4.8%) reported being 'made to penetrate' someone else during their lifetime, with 79.2% of cases involving a female perpetrator."

Duncan Craig, the founder and Chief Executive of Survivors Manchester, a charity supporting males who have experienced sexual violation, said: "This really is a ground breaking piece of work by Dr Weare. I was delighted that we could support the research as it shines a light on one of our last taboos in society - male victims and female perpetrators. We have got to break the silence on this and let men know that we are here to listen and support them when needed."