Research suggests teaching sex education to 10-year-olds
WORLD / Washington, U.S – Recent research findings suggests very young adolescents (VYA) will benefit from sex education classes taught to them at the early onset of puberty.
Research believes very young adolescents at risk
In a study titled “Investing in very young adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health“, researchers Susan M. Igras, Marjorie Macieira, Elaine Murphy & Rebecka Lundgren advocates investing in sex education for VYAs ” since early adolescence marks a critical transition between childhood and older adolescence and adulthood, setting the stage for future sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and gendered attitudes and behaviours”.
Very young adolescents (VYAs) between the ages of 10 and 14 represent about half of the 1.2 billion adolescents aged 10–19 in the world today and while “investment in positive youth development to promote sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is increasing” these are mostly for older adolescents.
These intervention and education programmes are crucial especially in “lower- and middle-income countries where most unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths and sexually transmitted infections occur”.
Lower- and middle- income countries
According to Worldbank data, low-income economies are defined as those with a gross national income (GNI) per capita, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method, of $1,045 or less in 2013; middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita of more than $1,045 but less than $12,746; high-income economies are those with a GNI per capita of $12,746 or more. Lower-middle-income and upper-middle-income economies are separated at a GNI per capita of $4,125.
High-income countries trying to adapt
In high-income countries where sex education classes and programmes are already established, many are adjusting to the realization the puberty is happening at a younger age. The shift towards teaching sex ed to younger children has its own set of challenges. In Chicago, when it was mandated that sex education would be taught in kindergarten, there were supporters and detractors. On Fox News, Michelle Fields told Neil Cavuto that she thinks this is ridiculous. “What this is all about is hiring more teachers, hiring more administrators, and wasting more of taxpayers’ dollars.”
Abstinence vs safe-sex education
Another challenge is the argument on abstinence as a better option than safe-sex education. Debate.org posed “should abstinence be taught in school?” in 2007. 67% of voters supported for abstinence.
Advocates for Youths highlights the various sex education content or programmes currently available. Its president Debra Hauser weighed in on the issue in the New York Times debate. “Irrational fear – the cultural belief that teaching young people about sex will cause them to have sex – keeps administrators and educators from doing what they know is best: providing young people with developmentally appropriate, sequential and honest sex education.”
The Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) states young people of all ages benefit from comprehensive sex education. It also shares some data:
- More comprehensive sex education has been found to be effective in delaying sexual intercourse, increasing condom or contraceptive use, and reducing the number of partners among teens.
- Research has found that teens who report that they received comprehensive sex education are 50 percent less likely to experience an unintended pregnancy.
- Strong evidence indicates that sex education programs that promote abstinence as well as the use of condoms do not increase sexual behavior.
- Teens who receive sex education that includes abstinence and contraception are more likely than those who receive abstinence-only-until-marriage messages to delay sexual activity and use contraception when they do become sexually active. Research shows that teens who practiced contraception consistently in their first sexual relationship are more likely to continue doing so than those who used no method or who used a method inconsistently.
At what age do you think sex education should be introduced? Do you think an abstinence-centred sex education is more effective than comprehensive sex education? Does your country approach sex education with safe sex, abstinence, or both?