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Sex Education Does Delay Intercourse

It may seem logical to think that talking sex to young adolescents encourages their sexual activity. Well, it isn’t. What sex educators have been saying for years has once again been confirmed by a large study undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Sex education proved to delay the beginning of sexual intercourse, for both girls and boys. When measured at age 15, girls were 59% less likely to have had intercourse if they had had sex education, and for boys it was 71%. Boys who’d had sex education were almost 3 times more likely to use contraception the first time they had intercourse; for some reason there was no influence on girls use of contraception.

It is important – and quite obvious – to note that they effect of school sex education is most effective for high risk groups.

Up until now, all the available information on the impact of sex education on the age of sexual onset has come form studies run in the 1970’s, 1980’s and early 90’s. They found different results about how the sex-ed affected their behaviour, but then such studies were run prior to the internet age, which were times when youth had very different influences and opportunities to collect information of their own.

This study suggests that sex education cannot just cover anatomy and dry theory; it needs to allow teenagers to discuss real circumstances and challenges that they face. This means letting them speak out about their experiences, including perceived peer pressure and confusion about safety limits.

Although this constitutes a welcome contribution to sexual health education, it does not offer answers to the big questions on what kind of sex education works best. We can just hope that this will invite more sex education funding and the studies will follow.

The current research was based on interviews with over 2,000 adolescents aged 15-19, collected in 2002 from all across the US. The full study findings will be published in the January issue of The Journal of Adolescent Health.


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