Adult Sex Education: Choice Or Consequence Research Proposal
Adolescent sexual education has become a huge issue in the United States and the issues with the type of sexual education are many however, the main issue discussed in this paper is abstinence only education. Many questions arise about if this type of education is helpful to young teens and responsible for the reduction in teenage pregnancy. The huge issue and topic considered now is if adolescent sex education is given to teens as a consequence or if it is a choice. The United States has a large issue with STI’s as well as teen pregnancy and is the country right now with the largest concern in this particular area making it important to find out why this is a problem and what can be done to prevent these issues which can affect teens for the rest of their lives.
When considering sexual education in the United States the main debate that is usually a topic for concern is whether to educate children on abstinence or safe sex. However another very relevant topic is whether sexual education is a choice or a consequence. So when addressing the second topic it is important to look at the history of both teen sex and sex education offered to this young group of Americans before you can really decide what the reason for this education is. When HIV (Human Immune Virus) and aids (Advanced Immune deficiency syndrome) became prevalent in the US beginning in the 1980s, so did the attempt to educate people to use only abstinence because it was considered and taught that this was the only safe alternative to contracting the disease. One slogan even combatted the use of condoms, “comparing using a condom to playing Russian roulette and blaming “victims” of HIV/AIDS for their own complicity in contracting what was then viewed by many as a primarily homosexual disease (Malone & Rodriguez, 2015).” There was not as much known about HIV then as there is now so possible reasons for the actions of people trying to prevent this were because of their lack of knowledge. However there is a lot more information on the disease now and still today we preach abstinence as the only alternative to catching the disease. This went on as a battle between sexual contraception and abstinence and still continues to confuse young teens today.
The teen birthrate in the United States was around 26 births for every one thousand adolescent females in 2013. This was a decline since the numbers reported in the previous year however the United States is still higher than other countries when it comes to the amount of teenagers that are sexually active resulting in the birth of a child. The even bigger issue some of these teens had already had one or more children before making the issue even more discerning. In 1990 there was an overwhelming amount of adolescents having sexual encounters resulting in pregnancy, almost 60 out of every one thousand teens (health, 2015). The numbers have decreased over the years however they are still too many teen pregnancies and that leads some to believe there needs to be mandatory sex education in schools. There are other factors like a positive home life and outlook toward school that are being brought up to try to combat teen pregnancy however the main focus has been on preventative measures and mostly teaching abstinence in schools, church and at home to prevent teenage sex altogether.
Consequences of sexual activities are the main topic for those who are hoping to point out the severe results of making choices to engage in teenage sex. One site that is pro abstinence states the consequences of teen pregnancy:
Pregnant teen woman are more likely to experience miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature death
Less likely to drop out of school and live in poverty
Children from teen mothers are more likely to have health problems
Teen pregnancy is a huge problem for state finances
As a result of all of these serious consequences it has been suggested that a few different plans be instated and considered to try to make sure teen pregnancy is no longer such a huge problem.
A teenager becoming pregnant is a huge deal and causes a lot of strain however the fact that early pregnancies are looked at with so many consequences it leads an outsider to see that abstinence only teachings are also a consequence of the young pregnancies rather than a choice that children make on their own. Community based abstinence programs were at the top of the list of suggestions and backed by funding from the president in the amount of 114 million dollars across the country. While abstinence based programs have shown some success as the United States has seen a decline in teen pregnancy rates there are too many teens continuing to get pregnant suggesting that abstinence education may not be enough by itself. The reason that the program’s success is in question is because some feel the decline is not because of the program but because of use of contraceptives and that there needs to be a completely different attitude about teens having sex. If contraceptive use among teens is the reason less teens in the United States are becoming pregnant, then it is essential that America pushes more education about contraception and makes this available to all teens. “Presently, an unrealistic emphasis is placed on preventing adolescent sexual behavior, which overlooks the fact that sexual expression is an essential component of healthy human development for individuals of all ages (PPFA, 2013).” As of now most American families do not talk openly with their teenagers about sex and safe sex because it is frowned upon rather than accepted as a natural process in life. So in the end is adolescent sex education (ASE) a choice or a consequence? Studies thus far point to this type education not being a choice as abstinence is the only education available for teens as a direct result of rising teenage pregnancy rates which points more toward this being consequential.
Review of literature
Much of today’s literature suggests that numbers are out of control when it comes to teen pregnancy rates but what are the numbers showing about the amount of teens having sex? And is the sex education we are using now, abstinence working or not? The number of teens that have admitted to being sexually active within the last three months is one third of all high school students. The reality is that number is probably much higher as some teens may have just felt uncomfortable admitting it, even if the study was conducted anonymously. Although teen pregnancy rates may have declined the number of teens having sex has remained about the same since 1991 (Bank, 2014). Teen pregnancy is the number one hot topic for discussion however sexually active teens are at just as much risk of being exposed to an STI (sexually transmitted infection) and even HIV that is an extremely deadly virus and could be prevented with the use of contraception. If the numbers have not changed for the amount of adolescents involving in sexual behavior it does suggest that abstinence may not be the reason that there are fewer teen pregnancies and that is a problem considering that other means of education are not traditionally funded and used in schools. Right now in the United States it is known that by the age of nineteen 7 out of every ten teenagers (boys and girls) have had sexual experiences and interactions. From 1988 to 2010 the United States has seen a large drop in the amount of teenagers having sex however the numbers are still too high so abstinence cannot be the only alternative. Pregnancy rates have declined as well however these same studies show this is not as a result of abstinence only education, in fact it is because of increasing use of contraceptive methods.
When compared to other countries results of studies have shown that American teens are not as likely as their teens to use protection during sex and their relationships do not last as long. The sexual relationships that American teenagers have were found to have less meaning then relationships of teenagers engaging in intercourse in other countries as well. Considering that facts support the United States has a higher teen pregnancy rate and STI infection rate than other countries, it may be time to start asking why we are so different (Finer & Zolna, 2011). It is almost assured that parents in the united states will not do things the same as parents in other countries like letting their teens have overnight visits with their boyfriend/ girlfriend however adopting even the policy of preaching the use of contraception’s would be a step toward the right direction that could make a change in the amount of teenage pregnancies and disease rates.
There are many different perspectives on why teens engage in sex including, bad home life, disconnect with school, no religion and on the other side of the spectrum, that it is normal behavior however the real issue should be how adults can make sure that the sexual activities there teens may be involved in are safe and do not result in STI’s or pregnancy. Teens have a right to know about their sexuality and that includes what the consequences are of having unsafe sex and how to protect their selves as well as abstinence. Abstinence only education programs are the main idea behind sexual education in the united states and the only time that educators are allowed to discuss contraception during this type of education is if they are telling students about the amount of times contraception fails (Youth, 2015). When you compare facts to myths unfortunately abstinence only education does not appear to have an effect that is useful in any way that it is intended. Many claims have been proven untrue and the facts are exactly the opposite when it comes to those who seek funding for abstinence only education. The major claim being that these programs delay teen’s engagement in sexual activities and prevent teen pregnancy.
After federally funded evaluations in 2007 concerning abstinence only education the truth arose showing there was no evidence that these claims were true and that further suggests more sexual education is needed. Another claim that was proven wrong was that these programs were responsible for the recent decline in teen pregnancy rates however again this was inaccurate and the real kicker the studies showed that improved contraceptive use was the real culprit for decline. This all being said it is safe to consider that abstinence only education may not be as useful as some would like to think. So the question remains is the continuing education in this form really a choice or some punishment for the number of teens engaging in sexual activities? In 2006 teens were asked several questions pertaining to their sexual education and how this did or did not help them. Many of the teens stated that they were told some information about STI’s and HIV as well as abstinence. However they also reported that this information was not given to them before they had had sex. It could be a major issue if sexual education is not being offered that includes all of the necessary information before teens engage in sexual relations with one another. One out of four of these same teens had the experience of only receiving abstinence education and no education about different types of birth control methods which causes major concern for teen pregnancy rates being affected in a positive way. Forty one reported not knowing very much about using condoms while a whopping 75% said they did not know about birth control. If teens are not responding to abstinence only then this study shows there is no real program in place that would prevent these teens from becoming pregnant or infected with a sexually transmitted Infection. Three quarters of our teenagers are reporting that they do not know about birth control so this leaves a huge problem on the table if even a quarter of these teens have sex because they are the risk group for early pregnancies and infections,
Purpose of Study
It is important to determine whether abstinence only education is working if people are to continue to see a decline in teen pregnancy rates. If this is not the reason why teens are making different choices then it would make a lot more sense to take a different approach to sexual education. Perhaps accepting that it is human nature for these young people to explore their sexuality and if this is a fact then preaching abstinence is just a means of brainwashing youth to conform to adults views. Knowing most teenagers will rebel means ignoring this fact could result in an unexpected rise in teen pregnancies and STI’s as teens will most likely turn to lying about their sexual behavior rather than making informed choices. To consider an approach that demonstrates proof the U.S might look at other countries that choose to take a different approach and talk to their teens about safe sex rather than abstinence. The facts are that countries like these, for example the Netherlands reports show that they have less teen pregnancies as a result of this open communication (Wetzstein, 2015). The U.S. is far from following their exact example of letting their teen’s sleepover with girlfriends and boyfriends however education about safe sex seems to be more successful then education on abstinence only.
Since the facts do not support abstinence only education as a means of preventing teen pregnancy and rate of STI’s it is a good idea for people to take a look at alternative means of education. Sexual education might be more productive at doing this if teens are educated on prevention methods and able to talk to the adults around them more openly about their sex life as opposed to being told sex is evil and bad. Looking at sex this way has to be done not just by children but the adults responsible for protecting these teens from these serious consequences. Right now advocates are mostly pushing for abstinence only education as Americans are not very open to the idea that there teenagers will in most cases engage in sexually activities. Ignoring the issue however is making the problem worse and demanding abstinence only pushes children toward early sexual encounters. To ensure that America’s youth has a chance against adolescent pregnancy and STI risks the consensual hypothesis is that change is necessary and the change needs to start in the type of sexual education that is being provided (Pittman, 2015).
Participants for the study would need to meet certain requirements based on the current facts (Something, 2015) about teen pregnancy rates:
Participants ages 15-19
Previously educated with abstinence only
In high school
Must have active email or contact number
The questionnaire will be provided after attending the class for sexual contraception and will involve comparison to the class that was previously offered based on abstinence only. After this education is completed teen participants would be required to give feedback over the next four years so that a decision could be determined on if sexual education discussing contraception and safety is more effective than abstinence only education. The subjects would not know the reason for the questionnaire or class to reduce implications of bias.
The participating states will be selected based on evaluations and similarities in past teen pregnancy and STI rates as well as size. Being as close in similarity as possible is important to determine the impact of change from different sexual education. After questioners are administered and four years of observation have passed results will compare which states show more of a success rate and which states show more of a failure rate. The participants will then be given a second questionnaire that discusses what they think made a difference in the pregnancy rates in there region, whether it be abstinence education or contraception education.
After the research is concluded the states that were educating on abstinence only and the states selected to use a more open means of education including practicing the use of contraceptives would be compared to see if there was any indication of a decline in teen pregnancy rates in the states that implicated the new approach to education.
The decision to introduce comprehensive sexual education should not be as difficult as it encompasses both contraceptive uses for teens as well as abstinence promotion. The definition of comprehensive sexual education includes: “such information as human development, abstinence, contraception, disease and pregnancy prevention, as well as skill development for healthy relationships and decision-making. CSE provides adolescents the essential knowledge and critical skills needed to avoid HIV, other STDs, and unintended pregnancy (council, 2014)”. It is now the opinion of many of the parents of these teens and professionals responsible for their education that there is not an alternative to CSE as it has proven itself more effective than other programs. The CSE advocates believe that evidence is important when it comes to determining the effectiveness of this program and they are pro research programs that will be able to demonstrate this. The one thing that is important to them is that young people are given the opportunity to experience both types of education as this is the only way to produce evidence that will show if programs supporting adolescent sex education programs are effective in preventing teen pregnancy and the spread of STI’s. Right now the educational system that is set up for teens that are engaging in sexual activities is a direct result of teen pregnancy rates rising rapidly making abstinence the only discussion as this type of education is a consequence of teens engaging in sex. This form of education offers teens no choices or options rather than be abstinent or become pregnant. This ultimately shows that the reason the current education programs are not affecting the rate of teen pregnancy or the number of teens having sex is because it is a punishment or consequence for behavior that is considered socially unacceptable.
There is no doubt that there is a problem with teens in America and sexual education so the alternative to offering a view that this is a normal part of growing up and giving them responsibility of protecting themselves seems like a valid alternative to ignoring the issue.
The proposal for a better and more effective education regarding sex among United States teens is that all options be considered. The history of the issue shows that there is indeed a problem and that the only real education teens have had so far is education that promotes they do not have sex at all before marriage, with no alternatives for protecting these teens if they do engage in sexual interactions. This type of thinking is closed minded suggesting that sex is a horrible thing that will result in pregnancy or infections that will ruin a teenagers life. While this does happen, it is not helping to prevent teenagers from having sex as their peers who see things differently will quickly prove in some cases that this is not always true. Once children feel they cannot trust their education they will find out on their own what sex really is and this type of reaction to sexual education is counter intuitive to preventing teen pregnancies and STI’s. Sexual education should show teens that sex is not to be feared but must be respected by introducing sexually curious teenagers to the facts about sex and exploring the options of using protection rather than the only protection we teach our young people is not to do it.
Bank, D. (2014). Sexually Active Teens. Child Trends. Retrieved 10 February 2015, from http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=sexually-active-teens
Council, S. (2014). Support comprehensive sex education and adolescent sexual health promotion (1st ed., p. 1). SIECUS. Retrieved from http://siecus.org/_data/n_0001/resources/live/CSEFactsheet.pdf
Finer, L., & Zolna, M. (2011). Unintended pregnancy in the United States: incidence and disparities, 2006. Contraception, 84(5), 478-485. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2011.07.013
Health, A. (2015). The Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Adolescent Health. Retrieved 10 February 2015, from http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/teen-pregnancy/trends.html
Malone, P., & Rodriguez, M. (2015). Comprehensive Sex Education vs. Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs | Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities. Americanbar.org. Retrieved 10 February 2015, from http://www.americanbar.org/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/human_rights_vol38_2011/human_rights_spring2011/comprehensive_sex_education_vs_abstinence_only_until_marriage_programs.html
Pittman, V. (2015). Comprehensive. Www2.education.uiowa.edu. Retrieved 10 February 2015, from http://www2.education.uiowa.edu/archives/jrel/spring06/Pittman_0514.htm
PPFA, P. (2013). Reducing Teenage Pregnancy (1st ed., p. 1). Planned Parenthood. Retrieved from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/6813/9611/7632/Reducing_Teen_Pregnancy.pdf
Something, D. (2015). 11 Facts about Teen Pregnancy | DoSomething.org | America's largest organization for youth volunteering opportunities, with 2,700,000 members and counting. Dosomething.org. Retrieved 10 February 2015, from https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-teen-pregnancy
Wetzstein, C. (2015). Teen pregnancy low in ‘sleepover’ country of the Netherlands. The Washingtion Times. Retrieved 10 February 2015, from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/20/teen-pregnancy-low-in-sleepover-country-of-the-net/?page=all
Youth, A. (2015). The Truth about Abstinence-Only Programs. Advocatesforyouth.org. Retrieved 10 February 2015, from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/409-the-truth-about-abstinence-only-programs
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