Age, not abstinence, may be the bigger problem in sex education

September 12, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

While abstaining from sex is the only foolproof way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence-only education programs often fail to prevent young people from engaging in sexual activity, according to a report in the September issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Part of the problem of sex education programs, however, may be a disconnect between what students are being taught and what they're really ready to learn, says Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo, the C.R. Hutcheson Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the Texas Tech University College of Human Sciences.

Too often, she says, sex education for 11- and 12-year-olds focuses on sex and contraceptives without explaining the biological changes they'll go through. This approach leaves many youths with the misconception that puberty means it's time to have sex.

After researching and reviewing existing curricula about puberty, Trejos-Castillo worked with students in the Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District for four years to develop the Normalizing Sexual Development curriculum, an abstinence-plus education program that includes two different levels, one for sixth-graders and one for . The older group learns about sex, abstinence, birth control, and what to consider before having sex. The sixth-grade curriculum presents as multi-faceted, teaching students about the cognitive, emotional and social changes they'll experience during puberty and how to cope with them.

  • Increasingly often, adolescents are bombarded with highly sexualized messages by a wide array of media and social networks exposing them to mixed ideas about what sexual is and presenting them with confusing and glamorized social expectations about sexuality.
  • Abstinence-only programs do not provide adolescents with overall life skills to be able to understand their own and make informed critical decisions about engaging in sexual activities that are not developmentally appropriate for them, and foresee the negative short- and long-term consequences of those actions.
  • The importance of comprehensive sexual is that it addresses the developmental needs (e.g., cognitive, emotional, physical, social, relational) of youth before, during and after puberty in a holistic way, providing them with long-lasting life skills to make healthy decisions.

Explore further: Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and policies are a failure, research shows

More information: John S. Santelli et al. Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage: An Updated Review of U.S. Policies and Programs and Their Impact, Journal of Adolescent Health (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.05.031

Related Stories

Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and policies are a failure, research shows

August 22, 2017
Two scientific review papers released today show that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and policies in the United States are ineffective as they do not delay sexual initiation or reduce sexual risk behaviors. They ...

Researchers to debate the call for sexual abstinence education in schools

October 30, 2012
Introducing abstinence education into UK schools could be a less effective substitute for comprehensive Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) aimed at children and young adults, say a research team led by Sheffield Hallam ...

Recommended for you

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke may be vastly underestimated by parents

November 15, 2017
Four out of 10 children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association. A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that parents who smoke mistakenly rely on their own physical senses ...

How pomegranate extract alters breast cancer stem cell properties

November 15, 2017
A University at Albany research team has found evidence suggesting that the same antioxidant that gives pomegranate fruit their vibrant red color can alter the characteristics of breast cancer stem cells, showing the superfood's ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.