Which Type of Sex Education is Right for Your Teen?
Sex education has become a regular part of many schools’ curriculum. Starting as early as 6th grade, Sexual Education programs focus on forming attitudes and decision making skills about sex, relationships and intimacy, and some offer information on sexually transmitted diseases and preventing pregnancy. With more than 60% of high school students engaging in sexual activity by the time they graduate from high school, sexual education is clearly needed for adolescents.
However, the subject of sex education is a controversial subject, and can be difficult for parents to understand differences. There are several types of sex education programs available and selecting the best approach for teaching in school is highly debated. Schools can choose between abstinence only, abstinence based or abstinence plus, comprehensive and holistic approaches to sexual education.
Abstinence-only education focuses exclusively on postponing sex until marriage. STD’s and HIV are mentioned as a result of sexual activity, but condoms and birth control are not mentioned at all. Critics argue that abstinence-only programs are dangerous and ineffective as they leave out information for teens that do choose to have sex, leaving them at risk for pregnancy and STDs. Additionally, these programs do not distribute information for youth choosing to wait until marriage on family planning (delaying pregnancy) or sexually transmitted diseases they could receive from their marriage partner. Other critics suggest that abstinence only programs are fear based and use false information about the effectiveness of contraception and the catching of and consequences of STD’s and HIV.
Abstinence plus or abstinence based sexual education teaches that students should wait until marriage to have sex, but this type also refers to other methods of protection from STDs and HIV. This type of education advocates abstinence but also focuses on contraceptive options and gives information regarding pregnancy, STD’s and HIV and prevention.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Missouri. © 2008 — Curators of the University of Missouri
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