The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 (Volume 5: Issue: 8)

The Topic: Teens and Suicide

The News Story: Drop in Teenage Suicide Attempts Linked to Legalisation of Same-Sex Marriage

The New Research: Real Suicide Protection—Chastity

The News Story: Drop in Teenage Suicide Attempts Linked to Legalisation of Same-Sex Marriage

“Legalisation of same-sex marriage in US states has been linked to a drop in suicide attempts among teenagers,” crowed the Guardian and myriad other media outlets last week.

According to the new study, “suicide attempts among high school students fell by an average of 7% following the implementation of the legislation,” with an even greater impact among LGBTQ adolescents. Says Ellen Kahn of the Human Rights Campaign, “What we can learn from this study, and what we know from hearing directly from LGBTQ youth, is that the convergence of a supportive family, a safe and welcoming school, legal protections, and being equal in the eyes of the law can provide the foundation necessary to thrive and flourish into adulthood.”

What the Guardian—and almost all other media sources, and even the researchers—bury somewhere in the middle of their stories is that “the analysis had its limitations, not least that fewer than half the states collected data on sexual orientation both before and after passing legislation.” In addition, the researchers admit that “the factors behind the effect remain unclear.” Numerous other methodological concerns exist and have been pointed out elsewhere. Perhaps, instead of focusing so much on trendy but potentially rather flawed information, policymakers should take a look at research that continues to demonstrate a different route to suicide prevention. 

(Sources: Nicola Davis, “Drop in teenage suicide attempts linked to legalisation of same-sex marriage,” The Guardian, February 20, 2017.)


The New Research: Real Suicide Protection—Chastity

Having imbibed the permissive philosophies promulgated by the Behavioral Left since the 1960s, many public-health officials and scholars who deal with health issues now regard nonmarital teen sex as normal, even healthy, so long as those involved use appropriate contraceptives. What these highly credentialed professionals now often consider abnormal—even unhealthy—is what our grandparents called chastity or perhaps continence, now more often labeled abstinence. Strong evidence that chastity does protect young people appears in an article recently published by a team of South Korean researchers who have learned to evade the implications of such evidence just as well as their Western counterparts.

Affiliated with Korea University, the authors of the new study express concern about “suicide [as] the leading cause of mortality among Korean youths aged 10–19 years.” These researchers express a particular concern about L[esbian]G[ay]B[isexual] youth, among whom previous researchers have found “suicidal attempts 2-3 times more often than [among] heterosexual youths.” These researchers therefore assess the linkage between sexual experience (abstinence, heterosexual intercourse, homosexual intercourse, and bisexual intercourse) and suicide risk outcomes (SROs: suicidal ideation, plans for suicide, suicidal attempts) among 146,621 randomly sampled South Korean students (grades 7 to 12, 12 to 17 years old) surveyed in 2012 and 2013.

A clear pattern of relative risk emerges in these data: “SROs based on sexual intercourse experience seemed to increase in the following order: no experience in intercourse, opposite-sex intercourse, same-sex intercourse, and then both-sexes intercourse experience.” The differences in sexual experience, in fact, translate into quite dramatic differences in Suicide Risk Outcomes: among abstinent male and female South Korean youth (that is, females with no experience with sexual intercourse), the researchers find that only 2.4% and 5.0% (respectively) had attempted suicide. In sharp contrast, among male and female South Korean youth with heterosexual intercourse experience, the percentage of those who had attempted suicide jumps to 7.4% and 18.0% respectively. The percentage climbs higher still among those who have experienced homosexual intercourse: 17.0 % among males, and 28.4% among females. The percentage remains about the same among males who have experienced intercourse with both sexes (16.8 %), but notches up still further among females who have experienced intercourse with both sexes (34.1 %). The researchers thus limn an overall correlation between sexual experience and suicide attempts that registers as highly significant (p < 0.001).The patterns for suicidal ideation and suicide planning run largely parallel to those for actual suicide attempts.

The authors of the new study—responding more to the imperatives of modern political orthodoxy than to their data—appear most concerned about taking up rhetorical arms against “homophobia,” inveighing against “a society that is full of negativity and discrimination towards homosexuals” and urging educators to “instill acceptance of diversity.” “School educators,” the researchers insist, “must continue to advocate for these youths and implement LGB inclusive policies and programs.” After all, they reason, “supportive and inclusive social environments for sexual orientation may lower the risk of suicide attempts among LGB youths.”

But anyone who can read statistics will see that as a measure that “may lower the risk of suicide” among all South Korean adolescents, nothing beats chastity. Indeed, the statistics unmistakably identify young people with LGB impulses as those who especially need the protection chastity affords. Even if, somehow, educators and public-health officials could fully extirpate “homophobia” in an “Asian society, [where] homosexuality has been considered unnatural for ages”—an unlikely prospect—this new study indicates that young men and women who engage in homosexual intercourse would still, like those who engage in heterosexual intercourse, be much more vulnerable to suicidal impulses than are abstinent peers.

Always a terrible tragedy, adolescent suicide appears unlikely to diminish much in the Land of the Morning Calm—or anywhere else—so long as scholars do more to protect their reputation for political correctness than to give young people the life-protecting benefits of chastity.

(Source: Bryce Christensen and Nicole M. King, forthcoming in The Natural Family 31.2. Study: Geum Hee Kim, Hyeong Sik Ahn, and Hyun Jung Kim, “Type of Sexual Intercourse Experience and Suicidal Ideation, Plans, and Attempts among Youths: A Cross-Sectional Study in South Korea,” BMC Public Health 16 [2016]: 1229, Web.)