One in two hundred US women in study report having virgin births — but researchers think it’s no miracle
Sarah Boesveld | 17/12/13 | Last Updated: 18/12/13 9:55 AM ET
DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star/FilesAlthough about one in two hundred women in a new study reported being pregnant despite not having sex, the researchers behind it don't think this indicates a rash of miraculous Virgin-Mary style births
A tiny percentage of modern day Americans are reporting having had virgin births, according to a new paper published in a respected medical journal Tuesday.
In the longitudinal study of adolescent health, 0.5% of the 7,870 female respondents consistently affirmed their status as virgins, yet reported a virgin birth without the use of reproductive technologies.
At first, statisticians at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill thought they’d made a mistake in their analysis of their data tracking sexual development into adulthood. Turns out they didn’t, said Amy Herring, lead author of the study published in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal. Many of these answers remained the same over years of responses and appear to be consistent with other answers that support a life in which virginity is valued, she said.
“It wasn’t a programming error, that is how they responded,” said the professor of biostatistics in the university’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. “They did say, ‘I am a virgin,’ and they did say ‘I have had a pregnancy.’”
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The virgins who reported pregnancies were also 30.5% more likely to have taken chastity pledges than the non-virgins who had reported pregnancies, the study found. Their average age was 19.
“Some of the associations we saw where women who had signed chastity pledges were more likely to report in this way, that sort of leads you to think ‘maybe there’s some sort of respondent bias’ where they don’t want to actually say they had sexual intercourse, and that’s driving the response,” she said.
Religious people are also more likely to sign chastity pledges, she said — something that might align with a lifestyle and value set in which virginity is held in high regard.
The parents of the virgins who had reported pregnancies were also more likely than parents of non-virgins to admit they didn’t know enough about sex and birth control to discuss it with their adolescent daughters, nor were they comfortable doing so.
I think that’s highly unlikely, that people truly believe they are having a miraculous birthIt’s important to point out respondents did not explicitly claim they had had a virgin birth, Prof. Herring said.
The respondents started answering long surveys for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (also known as Add Health) in 1994-95 at age 12, and did so four times until 2007, when they were age 28 and a half. The study defined virginity as “consistent reporting of no history of vaginal intercourse,” the study read. “Women were classified as having virgin pregnancies if they reported a pregnancy before sexual debut.”
While more virgins gave birth to boys — 59.8% — or may have learned they were pregnant during Advent, those trends were not statistically significant, the study read. Virgins were also younger on average at the time of birth of their first child, about 19-years-old, while non-virgins were about 21.
While there are massive limitations to self-reported studies, especially on sensitive subjects such as sex, these responses were elicited with state-of-the-art technology — laptops, on which the respondents could type in their own answers, rather than verbally share them with an interviewer in person or by phone.
Still, despite the religious influence, lack of education from parents and the consistencies in their answers, Prof. Herring won’t lend too much credence to the notion that these women believe they have something in common with the Virgin Mary.
“I think that’s highly unlikely, that people truly believe they are having a miraculous birth,” she said. “I think it’s much more likely that it’s mis-classification or that the respondent, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to say they had intercourse.”
Source: One in two hundred US women in study report having virgin births â€” but researchers think itâ€™s no miracle | National Post