Teens at Faith Baptist Church in Knightdale are promising not to have sex until they are married. Their pledge is called "True Love Waits." There is now proof most of them will keep their word -- at least for a while.
"It doesn't sound like a strong intervention to just take a pledge," says UNC-CH sociologist Dr. Richard Udry. "Who would think that would change kids lives very much? It does."
Udry helpeddesign a nationwide study, of adolescents.
The study suggests 2.5 million teens across the country have taken a virginity pledge as part of a church, school or club. The results show those who signed the pledge remained virgins at least 18 months longer than those who did not.
"Eighteen months or two years is a big effect," Udry says. "We don't have any programs that show that kind of effect."
While the pledge seems to work, it has its limitations. The study shows it is not as effective for 18-year-olds as it is for 16- or 17-year-olds. It also loses its effect as it becomes more popular.
"When a lot of kids pledge, it loses its bang," Udry says. "It loses its impact, because you're nothing special because everybody's pledging."
The pledge only seems to work when fewer than 30 percent of teens at a school or church take it.
What is significant, researchers say, is that it has any effect at all. This year, researchers will interview the same teens again to determine how many actually wait until marriage.