U.S. Teachers Untrained for Birds-and-Bees Questions
April 2, 2003
Only a minority of U.S. elementary school teachers are trained in how to best answer students' questions about sexuality, according to new research. Dr. James H. Price and colleagues reported that only 34 percent of teachers in the fifth and sixth grades said they had received training in how to answer students' inquiries about sex. "It's unfortunate that training about this issue isn't more often more formal," said Price, a researcher at the University of Toledo in Ohio.Adapted from:
Price and colleagues surveyed 500 fifth- and sixth-grade teachers by mail, asking them whether they had been trained in sex education, and how they would respond to particular questions about sex. The researchers report that teachers show different levels of willingness to discuss various sexual topics in front of fifth- and sixth-grade classes. Most teachers said they would answer questions about the processes of puberty, but only 18 percent would explain what masturbation is. These findings indicate that teachers need to receive formal training about sexuality, Price said. Untrained teachers may not feel comfortable answering some of their students' questions. "And so they elect not to do it," he said.
Children need to receive answers to their questions about sex early on, Price said, because studies have shown that kids often start to think more about becoming sexually active by the sixth grade -- when they are about 11 years old.
Some parents and children may also be uncomfortable discussing sex with each other, Price said, and parents may inadvertently intimidate their children, perhaps by asking them why they want to know the answers to certain questions about sex. In contrast, he said, the classroom can be considered a neutral place, where children can ask questions without fear of raising their parents' anxieties. The full report appears in the Journal of School Health (2003;73:9-14).
02.27.03; Alison McCook