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International News

Scotland: Sex Education Has Little Effect on Teenage Lifestyles

June 18, 2002

Sex education lessons are doing little to change teenagers' sexual behavior, suggest studies published in the current British Medical Journal (2002;324;7351). One of the biggest studies ever conducted on the impact of sex education delivered by teachers suggested that a specially designed program aimed at Scottish secondary school pupils had no more impact on adolescents' sexual activity or risk-taking than conventional lessons, although it increased their knowledge of sexual health and marginally improved relationships.

Also, a review of research in the United States and Canada indicated that pregnancy prevention programs for 11- to 18-year- olds, including sex education classes, family planning clinics and other outside school initiatives, had not delayed sexual intercourse, improved birth control or reduced teenage pregnancies.

The study tracked 5,850 teenagers in 25 non-Catholic schools in Scotland enrolled in a program that neither encouraged nor discouraged sexual activity. The program gave much information on practicalities such as handling condoms and accessing sexual health services, as well as trying to improve teenagers' negotiation of sexual encounters. But the program had no more effect on condom or contraceptive use or sexual activity generally than other sex education.

Researchers suggested that the influence of such specialized sex education programs might be less important than the influences of family, local culture and mass media. British secondary school students saw personal and social education in schools as requiring little effort because there were no exams.

Scotland's Department of Health said: "International research shows that countries such as the Netherlands that have good sex and relationship education and high quality contraceptive advice for young people have the lowest teenage conception rates."

Back to other CDC news for June 18, 2002

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Adapted from:
Guardian (London)
06.14.02; James Meikle

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More News on HIV/AIDS in the United Kingdom