New analysis: Comprehensive sex ed in schools may actually be harming students

sex ed

A new study has reviewed sex education programs in schools around the globe, and the results show that comprehensive sex ed isn’t having the desired effect on students. The review, titled Re-Examining the Evidence for School-Based Comprehensive Sex Education, examined 60 studies of 40 sex education programs in American schools, along with 43 studies of 39 programs in other countries. It was conducted by the Institute for Research & Evaluation and was published in the peer-reviewed journal Issues in Law and Medicine.

The review found “little evidence that [comprehensive sex education] programs are effective at producing positive impact on their participants.” Of 103 total sex education studies, only six had evidence of “real effectiveness” without negative effects after 12 months. Yet even in these six studies, there was no evidence that these six successful studies led to increased consistent condom usage, teen abstinence, fewer instances of sexually transmitted diseases, or fewer teen pregnancies. Meanwhile, 16 studies actually showed negative effects on teen sexual behavior and sexual health, including increases in teen sexual activity and other risky behaviors.

The negative behaviors found included increased pregnancies, STDs, and sexual activity including oral sex, more sex partners, increases in forced sex/rape, and increases in paid sex. Meanwhile, there were decreases in condom use. Part of the problem, according to the review, is that certain factors dealing with sexual behavior aren’t addressed in the classroom.

READ: California sex ed curriculum encourages many behaviors… except abstinence

“[M]any factors outside the classroom influence adolescent sexual behavior — factors related to the home, peer, social media, and cultural environments,” the review noted. “Significant and lasting increases in sexual risk avoidance may be amplified by a multi-pronged prevention strategy that addresses these various factors directly.”

Comprehensive sex education, as defined by Planned Parenthood, takes place in grades K-12, and is “high quality teaching and learning about a broad variety of topics related to sex and sexuality, exploring values and beliefs about those topics and gaining the skills that are needed to navigate relationships and manage one’s own sexual health.” Organizations like the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all support comprehensive sex education in schools.

And despite the growing trend of comprehensive sex education in schools, it’s not just this one analysis that has found problems. Even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that the number of sexually transmitted diseases are growing, with cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia reaching an all-time high. Newborn deaths related to congenital syphilis are also increasing, which the CDC says is a direct result of the STD “epidemic.”

Proper sex education is vital for young people. But comprehensive sex education may not be the answer that society has been led to believe.

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