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Sexuality education is the lifelong process of building a strong foundation for sexual health

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Introduction

Facts on Sex Education Sexuality education is the lifelong process of building a strong foundation for sexual health. Sexuality education takes place on a daily basis in homes, schools, faith-based institutions, and through the media. While this topic is often discussed, myths and misunderstandings persist. This fact sheet is designed to clarify this issue for parents, educators, health care professionals, policymakers, the media, and others so they can better understand the complexities and the importance of sexuality education. (Published in the SIECUS Report, Volume 29, Number 6 - August/September 2001) LEARNING ABOUT SEXUALITY Sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values. It encompasses sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender roles. Sexuality education addresses the biological, sociocultural, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of sexuality from the cognitive domain (information); the affective domain (feelings, values, and attitudes); and the behavioral domain (communication and decision-making skills).1 Sexuality education begins at home. Parents and caregivers are-and ought to be-the primary sexuality educators of their children. Teachable moments-opportunities to discuss sexuality issues with children-occur on a daily basis. From the moment of birth, children learn about love, touch, and relationships. Infants and toddlers learn about sexuality when their parents talk to them, dress them, show affection, play with them, and teach them the names of the parts of their bodies. As children grow into adolescence, they continue to receive messages about sexual behaviors, attitudes, and values from their families and within their social environment. Some parents and caregivers are comfortable discussing sexuality issues with their kids. Others feel anxious about providing too much information or embarrassed about not knowing answers to questions that are asked. Honest, open communication between parents and children-through childhood, the pre-teen years, adolescence, and young adulthood- can help lay the foundation for young people to mature into sexually healthy adults. Young people also learn about sexuality from other sources. These include friends, teachers, neighbors, television, music, books, advertisements, toys, and the Internet. ...read more.

Middle

The review found 22 studies that reported that HIV and/or sexual health education either delayed the onset of sexual activity, reduced the number of sexual partners, or reduced unplanned pregnancy and STD rates. The review also found that education about sexual health and/or HIV does not encourage increased sexual activity. The authors concluded that good quality sexual health programs helped delay first intercourse and protect sexually-active youth from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.24 Research has shown that effective programs share a number of common characteristics. The following list of these characteristics was developed by Doug Kirby, Ph.D, author of both Emerging Answers and No Easy Answers. Effective programs: * focus narrowly on reducing one or more sexual behaviors that lead to unintended pregnancy or STDs/HIV infection * are based on theoretical approaches that have been successful in influencing other health-related risky behaviors * give a clear message by continually reinforcing a clear stance on particular behaviors * provide basic, accurate information about the risks of unprotected intercourse and methods of avoiding unprotected intercourse * include activities that address social pressures associated with sexual behavior * provide modeling and the practice of communication, negotiation, and refusal skills * incorporate behavioral goals, teaching methods, and materials that are appropriate to the age, sexual experience, and culture of the students * last a sufficient length of time to complete important activities adequately * select teachers or peers who believe in the program they are implementing and then provide training for those individuals25 To date, no published studies of abstinence-only programs have found consistent and significant program effects on delaying the onset of intercourse. * The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy's report titled Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy identifies successful teenage pregnancy-prevention initiatives but indicates that none are abstinence-only programs. The report indicates that evidence is not conclusive about such programs but that, thus far, the information in "not encouraging." ...read more.

Conclusion

Hart Research Associates, Inc., for the Children's Research and Education Institute in 1999 found that 66 % of registered voters are in favor of teaching sexuality education in the public elementary schools, 22% are negative about sexuality education in the public elementary schools, and 12% are neutral on the topic.41 * A recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, The Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, found that 87 % of Americans favor including sexuality education in school curricula.42 Numerous national and government organizations have expressed their support for comprehensive sexuality education. * Officials at the National Institutes of Health43, The Institute of Medicine44, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention45, the White House Office on National AIDS Policy46, and the Surgeon General's Office47 have all publicly supported sexuality education programs that included information about abstinence, contraception, and condom use. * Prominent public health organizations also support comprehensive sexuality education including the American Medical Association48, the American Academy of Pediatrics49, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology50, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine.51 * In fact, more than 127 mainstream national organizations focusing on young people and health issues including Advocates for Youth, Girls Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the YWCA of the USA have joined together as the National Coalition to Support Sexuality Education committed to assuring comprehensive sexuality education for all youth in United States. SIECUS provides numerous resources and services to help parents, educators, policymakers, media representatives, and the public understand issues related to sexuality education. SIECUS' award-winning Web site (www.siecus.org) contains over 1,000 pages of information about sexuality and links to numerous organizations working in this area. SIECUS' also produces fact sheets, bibliographies, and other publications designed to expand on the information available here visit our Web site or contact SIECUS for a publications catalogue. In addition, SIECUS' Mary S. Calderone Library is one of a few libraries in the country dedicated to sexuality issues and is open to the public for assistance with research. The library now has over 20,000 books, journals, and curricula. ...read more.

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