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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 3, 2001: According to a recent study, teenagers who take virginity pledges, promising to abstain from sex until marriage, often delay intercourse significantly longer than those who do not make a public commitment to chastity. The study, financed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, analyzed the answers of 6,800 students from 141 schools to a range of questions. The study is the first to provide strong data that shows that pledges do make a difference. When researchers controlled for characteristics associated with delaying sexual intercourse, they found that those who had taken chastity pledges delayed sex about 18 months longer than virgins who had never taken a pledge. The report found that the pledges did not hold when only one teenager took them but required the support of like-minded classmates. That is because taking a public stand on turning down sex offers teens an identity, much the way joining a club does. The pledges seemed more effective with 15 and 16-year-olds, and least effective with 18-year-olds. Tamara Kreinen, president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, said half the country's teenagers had sex by the time they graduated high school.