The majority of U.S. adults, regardless of political affiliation, support a more balanced approach to sex education in schools, including teaching children about both abstinence and other methods of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the results of a national survey published in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Young adults age 15 to 24 account for one-fourth of all sexually active individuals, according to background information in the article. However, they acquire about half of the new sexually transmitted disease (STD) infections--a total of 9 million infections, at a cost of $6.5 billion annually. One-fourth of youth have had sex by age 15, 37.5 by age 16 and 46.9 percent by age 17. "These data underscore the relevance of timely and informative sex education in middle and high schools as an important component to the public health goal of promoting safe behaviors and preventing additional infections and unintended pregnancies," the authors write.
Amy Bleakley, Ph.D., M.P.H., and colleagues at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, analyzed data from 1,096 adults (average age 46.8, 46 percent men) who participated in the Annenberg National Health Communication Survey between July 2005 and January 2006. Respondents were asked about their support of three different types of sex education: abstinence-only, comprehensive and comprehensive that includes condom instruction. Participants also provided their political ideology on a seven-point scale from "extremely liberal" to "extremely conservative" as well as information about how often they attended religious services. Among the participants, 78.7 percent were white, 9.6 percent were black and 7.6 percent were Hispanic; 39.5 percent identified themselves as politically moderate, 35.5 percent as conservative and
Contact: Susan Q. Stranahan
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