Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman


  • Linda C. BaumannEmail author
  • Alyssa YlinenEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_77-2


Abstinence is the avoidance of sexual activity, usually referring to intercourse.


Abstinence is defined as the restraint from indulging in bodily activities that are experienced as giving pleasure. In medical settings this usually refers to drugs, alcohol, and most often sexual activity. Depending on the perspective, abstinence from sex can mean that all sexual activities are avoided, but it can also mean that only sexual intercourse is avoided. Abstinence is also considered a form of contraception; in fact it is the only form of contraception that prevents pregnancy with a 0 % failure rate. Abstinence also prevents the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

In recent years, the issue between abstinence-only sex education and comprehensive or abstinence plus sex education has been widely debated. An abstinence-only sex education program focuses on promoting abstinence from sex until marriage due to the possibility of pregnancy and the spread of sexually...

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References and Further Readings

  1. About D.A.R.E. (2016). D.A.R.E.. Retrieved 4 Jan 2016, from http://www.dare.com/home/about_dare.asp
  2. Abstinence. (2016). Planned parenthood. Retrieved 4 Jan 2016, from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/abstinence-4215.htm
  3. Abstinence and Sex Education. (2016). Avert. Retrieved 4 Jan 2016, from http://www.avert.org/abstinence.htm
  4. Kohler, P. K., Manhart, L. E., & Lafferty, W. E. (2008). Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47(5), 344–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ott, M. A., & Santelli, J. S. (2007). Abstinence and abstinence-only education. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 19(5), 446–452.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Satcher, D. (2001). Prevention and intervention. In Youth violence, a report of the surgeon general. Retrieved 4 Jan 2016, from http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/youthviolence/chapter5/sec4.html#IneffectivePrimaryPrevention

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Allina Health SystemSt. PaulUSA