The statistics on teenage pregnancy and birth rates underscore an important reality. It is emphasize that pregnancy is the natural result of sexual intercourse. It is so natural that four of every five girls who have regular intercourse without contraception will become pregnant within a year. Half of them will become pregnant within the first 6 months of sexual activity. Right now, more than one of every ten teenage girls in this country becomes pregnant each year.
That’s about 1. 1 million pregnant teenagers a year. Of this number, about 450,000 have abortions and 550,000 have babies. (The rest have miscarriages. ) One of every five babies is born to a teenager. More than 80 percent of these babies are unplanned. These statistics reflects the difficulty over time associated with this sensitive topic. It is acknowledged that sexuality is a socially constructed phenomenon and as such is largely shaped and influenced by culture.
As sexuality is a complex area, it’s the parents who have an enormous task in educating their teenage girls to ensure they will develop a healthy sexuality which will not include of course, teenage pregnancy. Other statistics will give you an idea of the reasons behind the rise of teenage pregnancies. The reasons are varied; one mentioned that more than 60 percent of all sexually active teenagers do not use any form of contraception during first intercourse.
Moreover, many continue to engage in unprotected intercourse. Those who do not use contraceptive may do so only occasionally. Sometimes they use contraceptives; other times, they don’t. These reasons, and the countless others not mentioned is all about sex education. Sex education therefore, plays a big role in the rise of teenage pregnancies. This research, therefore, is based on the belief that sex education is an integral part of every parent and child and that, as with many aspects of the parenting role.
This research further explored the role of mothers and fathers in fulfilling this parenting role. Parents` knowledge, attitudes and skills, together parents` active participation or plans for sex education in the home and will contribute much to the role of sex education especially for teenage girls to avoid pregnancies or even premarital sex. Thus this research paper is undertaken to examine the role of sex education for the rise of teenage pregnancies. Literature Review The concept of human sexuality is central to living as a human being.
Sex education involves comfortable discussion and communication with children on sexuality topics such as; correct anatomical terminology, body differences, sexual language, reproduction, birth, contraception, sexual values and values, masturbation, puberty, menstruation, wet dreams, sexual identity, sexual role, sexually assault/rape, abortion and even homosexuality. Moreover, sex education “is the integration of somatic, emotional, intellectual and social aspects of sexual being, in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality, communication and love” (World Health Organization, 1994).
Further, to achieve sexual health, sex education is seen as essential for healthy functioning as human being. This being so, it seems incongruent, that while other areas of sex communication have developed with the so called sex revolution in the 1960s, 1970s, and the advent of HIV/AIDS, parents are still reluctant to view sex education as an important aspect for the rise in teenage pregnancies; an area which demands positive acceptance and open communication.
In an attempt to put into perspective why sex education is a neglected practice in many societies (Geasler et al. , 1995) it is necessary to review the history of sex education. During the historical period of 1840-1880, Orson Fowler, a physician, was considered to be an authority on sexology and sexuality or ‘amativeness’ as it was then known. He influenced much of what parents at that time believed about sexuality and his ideas reflected the ‘Victorian’ era, with an acceptance of the suppression of sexuality (Swan, 1980).
Parents considered children as delightful and asexual, believing that to protect them they had to maintain their innocence. Generally at that time there was very little scientific knowledge about sexuality and sex for procreation rather than for pleasure was considered appropriate (Swan, 1990). Historically between 1910-1940, childhood expressions of sexuality became accepted as a reality and this was directly attributable to the work of Freud during this period.
In an effort to control venereal disease, sex education evolved, but it was believed that children should not be given too much information about sexuality, thus not provoking sexual behavior (Swan, 1990). It was suggested by Gagnon (1995) that part of the reluctance to discuss sexuality was as attempt to hide the sexual character of the adult, a desire which may persist for many parents. There was much debate over the positive or negative approach which should be taken in sex education. Many favored concentrating on the disastrous consequences, so as to limit curiosity (Swan, 1990).
For the first time, the use of appropriate terminology was encouraged, but a double standard existed in that parents were more likely to give males more information than females, perpetuating the inequality which existed at that time and to some extent still exists today. The focus of sex education was on rules and warnings, a legacy which has extended throughout the generations (Brock & Jennings, 1993). The mid 20th century was characterized by a greater emphasis on the autonomy of the child and the writings of Spock, Kinsey and others contributed to changing attitudes to sexuality.
Nudity became permissible, but sexual exploration continued to be discouraged. Parents during this time, were encouraged to educate their children regarding the ‘facts of life’ and it was suggested that they be guided by the child’s questions (Spock, 1994). This model of sex education continues to the present and appears inappropriate to address the needs of children in the 1990s (Gilbert & Bailis, 1990), as it was in the 1940s and 1950s. At this time limited, factual communication with children in relation to sex education was considered satisfactory, with recommendations that it be imparted in a simple, natural way.
Parents were warned about providing too much information too soon (Ilg & Ames, 1992), a concern which still hinders most parents` communication. An understanding of childhood sexuality emerged, but restraint regarding the child’s sexual expression remained popular. Since 1995, attitudes to sexuality have somewhat relaxed and the work of Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin (1993) have provided valuable information about genital play, sex play in childhood and sexual behavior in general. Since this time, the existence of childhood expressions of sexuality has been acknowledged.
Although criticism has been leveled at Kinsey over his protracted sample selection and research methodology (Gagnon, 1995), his work laid the foundation for ongoing sex research, which has resulted in a more scientific approach to understanding sexuality. With the so-called ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1990s behind us, the attitudes and expression of sexuality for males and females is slowly becoming more balanced. A degree of freedom in sexual expression exists for both males and females, although equality is still not a dominant theme.
Parents, having accepted these changes, have given their children more responsibility for their sex education and communication candidly with their children in the home, to help them meet this goal of self-responsibility. Sex education in the family today, like in previous generations (Brock & Jennings, 1993), is characterized by inadequacy and restraint. An appreciation of the history of sexuality and sex education provides some insight into the complexity of human sexuality today.
It creates awareness that the approach to the dilemmas of sex education must be positive and proactive, as it is the social forces which determine the acceptance and expression of sexuality in our time. Findings Evidence from the history of sexuality and sex education has demonstrated a failure to confront teenage sexuality and as a result may result to teenage pregnancy (Shafran, 1985). Inadequate sex education throughout generations has also meant teenagers are at risk in terms of optimizing sexual health in adulthood.
Of prime importance in the education of parents, is the creation of an understanding and acceptance of teenage sexuality. By this, is meant transmission of knowledge concerning the psychosexual development of teenage and an appreciation of them as sexual beings, resulting in positive communication and acknowledgement of the centrality of sexuality to the totality of being a person. Teenage girls are said to have a different experiences to boys and with an interpersonal perspective. This period of development involves further maturation and separation and is often more difficult for girls than boys because of this.
It is felt that girls` development becomes more reflective at this time, expanding the concept of care for others. Female relationships continue to be important and the nurturing behaviors which subsequently develop contrasts to the male definition of self in terms of being separate and espousing logic (Gilligan, 1992). These differences in the perspectives of males and females in adolescence have a significant influence on sexual development, resulting in differences in the expression of sexuality based on gender.
For females the importance of relationships in the expression of sexuality differs from the male approach of being detached. This then has implications for the sexuality education which is provided to males and females as they develop cognitively throughout childhood and adolescence. The importance of the mother in the health socialization of teenage girls is significant as mothers play an important role in teaching their children about health related behaviors (Fox, 1991). This teaching occurs early in the teenager’s life when peers are not as influential as they become in adolescence.
It seems that those health behaviors learnt through early socialization are often unshakable and transferred from generation to generation. Sly et al. , (1995) through structured interviews of 573 mothers investigated mother-child interaction about teenage pregnancy and concluded that mothers have an important role in the health socialization of their children. They advocated early risks of teenage pregnancy education within a health socialization context as it was deemed by them to be more effective than later sex education in adolescence.
If one applies what is known about health socialization of children to sexuality education, it seems reasonable to assume that early interaction could influence the development of a child’s belief and attitudes. Early communication of a value system maybe sufficiently strong to enable children to withstand the pressures of adolescence. It is known that the formation of sexual attitudes begins very early in the child’s development and should be regarded as a critical period (McNab, 1996).
Encouraging parents to take advantage of this window of opportunity could enhance early attitude development and provide the foundation for competent sexuality decision –making. Early information benefits the child and this is supported by research pertaining to many areas of child development. In children’s language development it is well recognized that children need early exposure to sounds, music, language, and reading prior to any expectations that they will talk or read. Similarly a mother teachers her child about different colors well before she might expect him or her to recall the information with accuracy.
It could be argued that the same should apply to sex education. Information shou8ld be given freely to the young child without an expectation of accurate recall, until a child is cognitively mature. Repetition of information by parents is likely to be a characteristic of parent-child sex communication as it is with all information given to children about a variety of topics. The topic of sex should be treated like any other. Children need to be provided with information and they will learn at their own rate without the constraint of labeled cognitive stages. Discussions
This finding can be considered disappointing, given the strong evidence that teenagers express desire for their parent to be the primary sex educators (Croft & Asmussen, 1992). In a survey of 174 secondary school students support this with 75 % of teenagers stating they believed that parents should be the primary source of information before other sources (Kaye, 1981). Despite this support, most teenagers report that sex communication with their parents is lacking (Darling & Hicks, 1992). However, previously searcher has focused on adolescents` reports of their parents as sex educators (Bennet & Dickinson, 1990).
This may have resulted in limitation regarding selective memory of participants that the potential for recall bias and inadequate specific information on parental teaching practices. Parents recognize the dilemma concerning their role as sex educators and this was evident in the findings by Welshimer (1994) where only 15% of parents reported they had confidence that most parents provided adequate sex education. In this survey of 224 parents and guardians at a community high school, only 52% agreed that they provided adequate teaching themselves, this had fallen 12% from the previous decade.
Even so, one wonders whether this may still be an over-inflated view, given previous findings. One reason for the inconsistency in findings in this study may be that the sample was predominantly female, with males representing only 22% of the sample. While teenagers want their parents to be the primary sex educators, rather than peers (Bennet & Dickinson, 1990), the number of children who are educated by their peers, media, and the literature is actually increasing (Carter & Carter, 1983).
This is despite an awareness of the importance of positive sex education in the family (Maddock, 1989). Adolescents generally indicate that overall their main source of sex information is peers (Bennet & Dickinson, 1990), although Kaye (1981) found 38% of adolescents rated school as their main source of information, with family the main contributor for 19% and friends the most frequent source for only 14% of participants. School was also rated as preferred source of information, in preference to family.
This may reflect implementation in schools, which provides school children with formal health education about sex from kindergarten to year 10. Bonnell and Caillouet (1991) found that friends rated as an important source of sex information, with teachers, siblings, relatives, relative, and professionals also contributing to adolescents’ education to a significant degree. Parents were not the main source of information for reasons such as “embarrassment, poor communication, different values about sex and dating…fear of being hassled and fear of being accuses “(Bonnell & Caillouet, 1991).
Kaye (1991) asserts that teenage girls are dissatisfied with learning from peers, preferring to learn from parents or school. They recognize that friends are not necessarily an accurate source of information, leaving them vulnerable to myth and ignorance. However, if parents hesitate or are not prepared to communicate, teenagers have no choice but to gain the information as best as they can. Parents generally wish to educate their children regarding sexuality, recognizing it as important and adolescents want their parents to be involved in communicating with them.
It seems incongruent, however, that parents in our society are often reluctant or unable to provide their children with this education. It is reasonable therefore to question why this is so. Implications While many parents prefer to leave sexuality education to the school system, much of the necessary information is delivered in this formal context too late to have a significant influence on the child (Firestone, 1994). Generally institutions are better able to transmit facts than make an impact on the child’s attitudes and values, which are all-important in sexuality decision-making.
Several studies have found that while sexuality education programs are important in schools in terms of increasing knowledge, they have little influence on attitudes and behavior (Firestone, 1994). The need for a complimentary context for sex education is further reinforced by the fact that in much of the literature, school-based education has not been shown to decrease levels of sexual activity among adolescents or increase the use of contraceptives (Warren, 1992).
Some studies suggest further, that these programs are offered too late and that appropriately timed sexuality education programs may have a more positive effect on adolescent sexual behavior (Marsiglio & Mott, 1996). A further point for consideration is the debate concerning the provocation of sexual behavior as a result of school education. Marsiglio and Mott (1996) and Wellings et al. , (1995) contradict each others` findings in this regard.
The former found that sexuality education classes actually increased the initiation of sexual activity with an increase also in effective contraceptive use, however, the latter study disputed these findings, suggesting that their data provided no evidence that education in schools might hasten sexual experience. While there is contradictory evidence in the literature concerning the impact of school-based education on adolescent sexuality, it is assumed that it is far more likely that formal education has little positive effect on sexual behavior and attitudes in adolescence.
This is because of the ad hoc basis in which sex education is delivered in schools, in terms of content and frequency. The discrepancy in the literature reinforces the notion that sex education in the home is desirable and formal education should be encourages as complimentary process. Conclusion The purpose of this paper is to provide information about the role of sex education which may ultimately assist parents in providing comfortable, informative sexual communication to both sons and daughters but most especially for the rise of teenage pregnancies.
This is important to ensure equality for both sexes and to abolish the double standard which may many believe still exists (Nolin & Petersen, 1992). If teenagers are to be provided with information, which is their right, then parents, as the primary educators, must be prepared and encouraged to talk with them about sexuality. By identifying parents` self-efficacy to teach their teenagers about sex and determining if in fact they are fulfilling their desire to be their children’s` teachers provides new knowledge regarding the apparent in congruencies seen in the literature.
It may be that this dissonance is the result of several competing factors and analysis of these contributes further to our understanding of parents’ dilemmas. The importance of this study is its contribution to a conceptual understanding of sex education in the home which will benefit to health professionals, school teachers and sex educators as they work with parents to promote the sexual health of their children. One way this may be achieved is through the implementation of community-based parent, especially mother sex education programs.
This research provides information needed to the development of these programs thereby ensuring that the greatest benefits for parents and their children will be achieved. The augmentation of such programs and the creation of materials for parents, will provide a stronger foundation and more widespread support if based on research findings. Such research is also necessary when considering the direction of sexuality education in the next century if the future sexual health of children, especially of female teenagers, is to be fostered and encouraged.
The problem surrounding sex education of children which resulted to the rise in teenage pregnancies in the 1990s is a public health problem which requires further investigation to add to the limited body of knowledge available. As such the topic is of importance to parents who are the primary sex educators. Support and assistance for them in nurturing their child’s sexual health is necessary and by raising awareness of sex communication as a normal function of the parenting process, the first role in sex education is taken.