Formal Sex Education Drops Off in US Schools, Homes

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Educating teenagers about sex may be essential for their mental and physical health, but teaching on this topic from parents and schools has decreased substantially in the past decade, writes IAN.

The nonprofit group Guttmacher Institute found in a study that 21% of girls and 35% of boys were not recipients of information explaining birth control from either parents or school, according to Teen Vogue.

"Sex education is crucial in preventing unwanted pregnancies, avoiding STDs and maintaining an overall healthy body," said Leslie Kantor from Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Sex education can make a real difference in adolescents' overall health and well-being. The fact that young people are being deprived of information critical to their sexual health is unacceptable,"

The findings showed that the number of teen girls who were taught about birth control dropped from 70% to 60%. The number of teen girls who were taught about STDs decreased from 94% to 90%. The teaching of HIV/AIDS prevention declined from 89% to 86%. The percentage of boys who had been taught about birth control lowered from 61% to 55%.

Kantor added that the fact that schools are teaching less about birth control, STDs, and HIV/AIDS in a time when 20 million cases of STDs are reported annually in the US and unintended pregnancies among teenagers remains the highest of any industrialized country is disturbing.

The researchers reviewed surveys taken from 2006 to 2010 and between 2011 and 2013. They analyzed responses from 2,000 teen-aged boys and 1,000 teen girls. Questions included whether they had received formal sex education at their schools, at church, or in the community in which they lived before their 18th birthday.

The topics on the questionnaire included saying no to sex, STDs, and HIV/AIDS prevention. Additionally, in the second wave of the survey, teens were questioned about their knowledge of where birth control could be obtained and whether they had been instructed on how to use a condom, writes Catherine Brown for the Parent Herald.

Some examples of results from the survey include the number of young women who were formally taught to say no to sex at all went from 89% to 82%. Those who were led to say no to sex before they had engaged in the act were lowered from 78% to 70%. And women who received formal education about STDs decreased by 4%.

Laura Duberstein Lindberg, the study's lead author, said it was time for parents to step in and assist their children in learning about sex. They also need to work with their children's schools and pediatricians to be sure that their kids had the access to sex ed they deserve.

"The declines in formal sex education we observed since 2006 are distressing, but unfortunately are part of a longer term retreat from sex education, especially instruction about birth control methods," said Duberstein Lindberg.

According to Reuters, most of the decline in formal sex education reported occurred in rural areas, but sex talks with parents remained approximately the same over time.

Roughly more than a third of boys revealed that they received no instruction on birth control from formal sources or mothers and fathers, while one in five girls said the same.

The study, "Changes in Adolescents' Receipt of Sex Education, 2006-2013" was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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