Sex education is designed to help young people gain the information, skills and motivation to make healthy decisions about sex and sexuality throughout their lives.
Is Sex Education Effective?
Research on sex education has focused on whether programs help young people to change specific behaviors related to preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases such as:
- Delaying sex until they are older
- Using condoms and contraception when they do have sex
- Reducing the frequency of sex
- Reducing the number of sexual partners
Hundreds of studies have shown that sex education can have a positive effect on these behaviors, particularly when sex education programs incorporate all of the following seventeen key characteristics as developed by Douglas Kirby from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy:
The Process of Developing the Curriculum:
- Involved with multiple people with different backgrounds in theory, research, sex and STD/HIV education to develop the curriculum.
- Assessed relevant needs and assets of target group.
- Used a logic model approach to develop the curriculum that specific the health goals, the behaviors affecting those health goals, the risk and protective factors affecting those behaviors, and the activities addressing those risk and protective factors.
- Designed activities consistent with community values and available resources (e.g. staff time, staff skills, facility space and supplies.)
- Pilot-tested the program.
Curriculum Goals and Objectives:
- Focused on clear health goals — the prevention of STDs, HIV and/or pregnancy.
- Focused narrowly on specific behaviors leading to these health goals (e,g, abstaining from sex or using condoms or other contraceptives), gave clear messages about these behaviors, and addressed situations that might lead to them and how to avoid them.
- Addressed multiple sexual psychosocial risk and protective factors affecting sexual risk behaviors (e.g. knowledge, perceived risks, values, attitudes, perceived norms and self-efficacy).
Activities and Teaching Methodologies:
- Created a safe social environment for youth to participate.
- Included multiple activities to change each of the targeted risk and protective factors.
- Employed instructionally sound teaching methods that actively involved the participants, that helped participants personalize the information, and that were designed to change each group of risk and protective factors.
- Employed activities, instructional methods and behavioral messages that were appropriate to youths’ culture, developmental age and sexual experience.
- Covered topics in a logical sequence.
The Implementation of the Curriculum:
- Secured at least minimal support from appropriate authorities such as ministries of health, school districts or community organizations.
- Selected educators with desired characteristics (whenever possible), trained them, and provided monitoring, supervision and support.
- If needed, implemented activities to recruit and retain youth and overcome barriers to their involvement (e.g., publicized the program, offered food or obtained consent).
- Implemented virtually all activities with reasonable fidelity.
In addition, there are many other outcomes that people want for themselves and for their children, such as the ability to form and maintain healthy, meaningful relationships, the ability to appreciate one’s own body, and the ability to engage in sexual activity that is mutually consensual and satisfying.
What Are Evidence-Based Interventions?
Evidence Based Interventions are programs that have been proven effective on the basis of at least one rigorous research study. Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has sponsored an independent systematic review of the teen pregnancy prevention literature to identify programs with evidence of effectiveness in reducing teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and associated sexual risk behaviors. There are currently 44 programs that are featured on the evidence list.