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Sexuality Education, Encyclopedia of Adolescence

2012 | Download

This article from the Encyclopedia of Adolescence compares and contrasts two approaches to sexuality education—behavior change approaches, which are represented by abstinence-only and abstinence-plus models, and healthy sexual development approaches, represented by comprehensive sexuality education models.

Sexuality education comprises the lifelong intentional processes by which people learn about themselves and others as sexual, gendered beings from biological, psychological and socio-cultural perspectives. It takes place through a potentially wide range of programs and activities in schools, community settings, religious centers, as well as informally within families, among peers, and through electronic and other media.

Sexuality education for adolescents occurs in the context of the biological, cognitive, and social-emotional developmental progressions and issues of adolescence. Formal sexuality education falls into two main categories: behavior change approaches, which are represented by abstinence-only and abstinence-plus models, and healthy sexual development approaches, represented by comprehensive sexuality education models.

Evaluations of program effectiveness, largely based on the outcomes of behavior change models, provide strong evidence that abstinence-only programs are ineffective, and mixed evidence on the effectiveness of programs that include contraception and safer sex. There is a particularly strong need for sexuality education among traditionally underserved youth, including sexual minorities, youth with disabilities, and those in foster care.

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