Online Program

Missing piece: What youth think about sexuality education in California

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 1:15 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Leah Maddock, MPH, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Nicole Bennett, MPH, Office of Adolescent Health, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, MD
Claire Brindis, Dr. P.H, M.P.H., University of California, San Francisco, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health /PRL Institute for Health Policy Studies, San Francisco, CA
While most U.S. teens receive formal sexuality education before age 18, content and quality varies. Previous research has examined parents' and teachers' attitudes towards sexuality education, yet we lack sufficient youth feedback. To examine youth attitudes and experiences regarding sexuality education classes, researchers conducted focus groups with teens aged 15-17 in four California counties. Focus groups were conducted separately by gender (60% female) and ethnicity, with a total of 91 Latino, 44 African American, and 43 white adolescents; a brief quantitative survey was also completed. Participants reported receiving sexuality education during middle school (21%), high school (54%), or both (25%). Participants most often reported that topics included birth control, though rarely included seeing actual methods or condom demonstrations; abstinence; and STIs, including symptoms, cures, and “those nasty pictures.” Reaction to the classes was mixed; several felt peers did not take it seriously (“it was more jokes than serious talk”), though many said the information made them more aware and classes should be mandatory. When offered, anonymous question boxes helped youth feel comfortable. Class length varied widely, as did the type of teacher. Overall, youth thought the content was presented in a neutral manner, though some reported that the class presented sex in a negative way. “It can't be too positive because we would only think that it was all about pleasure… we wouldn't know the consequences.” Findings provide insight into youth perceptions of sex education classes and can be used to develop more youth-friendly and effective sex education.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Discuss Federal and State laws and education codes pertaining to sexuality education. Discuss current guidelines and research related to best practices in sexuality education. Assess ways to improve sexuality education by seeking and incorporating youth feedback. Evaluate the attitudes of study participants regarding sexuality education.

Keyword(s): Adolescents, Pregnancy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the study coordinator, I collected and analyzed the data.
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.