238642 Danger, disease and ‘don't' : Young adults reflect on the impact of messages about sex on their first sexual experiences

Monday, October 31, 2011: 12:50 PM

Eva Goldfarb, PhD , Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Lisa Lieberman, PhD, CHES , Department of Health and Nurition Sciences, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Samantha Kwiatkowski , Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Christopher Hellwig , Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Seventy-five college freshmen and sophomores participated in focus groups at a Northeastern state university, during 2010. Students were recruited via campus-wide emails with the subject “Would you tell us about your first time?” Groups lasted 1.5 hours, and were audiotaped and transcribed. Groups ranged from 5-12 students, and were divided into male or female groupings. Two separate groups were offered exclusively for LBGTQ students who preferred that option. MaxQDA qualitative analysis software was used to categorize and code data on specific themes related to the research questions. As part of the discussion of students' first sexual experiences, participants were asked to describe the messages they received from parents and schools about sex, prior to their sexual initiation. Overwhelmingly, students' most enduring memories of high school sex education were negative messages, with a primary focus on disease, including photos, models, and discussions of diseased genitalia. Healthy relationships, sex as a normal part of human development, pleasure, as well as sexual orientation were rarely mentioned in participants' school sex education memories. Students' recollections of messages they received at home reflected limited or no discussion about healthy sexuality; some discussion, mostly in the form of warnings, and admonitions to wait; and rare reflections of positive messages. Discussion will include gender differences in descriptions of home and school messages,the potential impact of these messages on young people's decisions about and experiences of their sexual debuts and the implications of these findings for training parents and health educators and development of effective sexuality education programs.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Program planning
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
By the end of the presentation, participants will be able to: Recognize the role of messages about sex from school and parents, which young people receive before they become sexually active, in building their expectations about sex and relationships. Discuss the limited effectiveness of negative and graphic messages about disease to protect young people from STDs, keep them from engaging in sexual intercourse, or help them build healthy sexual relationships. Discuss the importance of early and positive messages about sexuality in helping young people to make healthy decisions about sexual behavior, have positive sexual experiences and build healthy sexual relationships.

Keywords: Adolescent Health, Sex

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am a Professor of Health Education and Chair of the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences at Montclair State University. I was a Co-PI on the research being presented.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.