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Monday, Dec. 22, 2014

Sex education should start sooner, study finds

By By Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune (MCT)

Published: Fri, Aug. 1 8:32 p.m. MDT

 Aiden Meade, 9, works on a solar oven at Ebeneezer Elementary School on Thursday, July 17, 2014. To significantly decrease unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths and sexually transmitted diseases globally, we should start talking to boys and girls about their sexual and reproductive health as young as age 10, says a new study out of Georgetown University.

Aiden Meade, 9, works on a solar oven at Ebeneezer Elementary School on Thursday, July 17, 2014. To significantly decrease unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths and sexually transmitted diseases globally, we should start talking to boys and girls about their sexual and reproductive health as young as age 10, says a new study out of Georgetown University.

(Jeremy Long, Associated Press)

To significantly decrease unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths and sexually transmitted diseases globally, we should start talking to boys and girls about their sexual and reproductive health as young as age 10, says a new study out of Georgetown University.

“At a time when sexuality and gender identities are emerging, younger adolescents may experiment with adult sexual behaviors,” write authors Susan M. Igras, Marjorie Macieira, Elaine Murphy and Rebecka Lundgren. “But because of their cognitive developmental stage, (they) are unlikely to correctly assess risks and consequences.”

The researchers define younger adolescence as ranging from age 10 to 14.

The study focuses on adolescent behaviors and risk around the globe, noting that 90 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents live in lower- and middle-income countries. Efforts at curbing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases — particularly HIV — have increased in many parts of the world since 1990, according to the study, but they’re mostly directed at older youth.

Victoria Jennings, director of the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, says the findings are important to consider in the United States as well — in all socioeconomic spheres.

“The implications are so clear,” Jennings says. “Adolescents in all cultures and every social status are learning at 10, 11, 12 how to match up to gender roles and expectations for them.”

Children as young as 10 are beginning to process messages about how to be popular with the opposite sex, how to gain social status and what they gain — or lose — by delaying potentially risky behaviors.

Yet parents, educators and other decision-makers are often wary of introducing the topics of sexual and reproductive health to young adolescents, Jennings says, because they fear it will encourage them to engage in sexual behavior.

“If it’s done properly it has the opposite effect,” she says. “It has to be done in the context of helping them develop healthy self-esteem and the ability to negotiate their way in the world and develop expectations for themselves and their lives that will cause them to make decisions that will lead to positive outcomes.

“The message can’t be narrowly focused on family planning and contraceptives and HIV,” she says. “It has to be about developing a healthy life and healthy perceptions of themselves and others.”

The study calls on policy makers, educators and parents to shift their sex-ed conversations to younger adolescents.

“If programs … are implemented at a time when adolescents are still malleable and relatively free of sexual and reproductive health problems and gender role biases, very young adolescents can be guided safely through this life stage, supported by their parents, families and communities,” the authors write in the conclusion. “It will be critical to encourage dialogue with younger adolescents, the significant adults in their lives and local communities … in order to influence positive investments on behalf of this future generation.”

(Contact Heidi Stevens at hstevens@tribune.com, or on Twitter: @heidistevens13.) Chicago Tribune. Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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1. gmlewis
Houston, TX,
Aug. 1, 2014

The study found that children develop awareness of sexually differentiated roles and expectations in society between the ages of 10 - 12. The study concluded that this could have implications on the best time to begin sex education, but did not provide any data on the actual outcomes of initiating that education at those ages.

Without that further information, we are no further along in determining the best time to introduce sex education.

2. Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

Agreed.

Parents? Get with it!

3. Johnny Triumph
American Fork, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

We've started earlier than 10, why let incorrect notions heard on the playground or school bus bias such an important topic? If handled correctly talking about sex with children will show them it's ok to talk about in the right places and that parents can be trusted to share sensitive information with them rather than react in a huff if a child shows any knowledge of it.

4. FT
salt lake city, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

Lets see what Gayle Rucizika has to say about this before we do anything foolish like education.

5. A Guy With A Brain
Enid, OK,
Aug. 1, 2014

Article title: "Sex education should start sooner, study finds"

True.

And it should be done by PARENTS!