Classroom sex education appears to have little or no effect on altering sexual activity, promoting the use of birth control or lowering teenage pregnancy, according to a review of five studies.
“There’s nothing unique about sex education as opposed to other information transmitted in school,” said Dr. James W. Stout, a resident at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle and a co-author of the review.
“A person can have the information regarding their health, but it doesn’t automatically translate into their behavior,” he said. “A good example would be the ill-health effects of cigarette smoking, which it’s probably safe to say most smokers are aware of, and yet they still smoke.”
Five studies from 1980 to 1987 examined the effect of classroom sex-education programs at the junior and senior high school level on teenagers from a variety of geographical areas and racial and socioeconomic groups, the researchers said.
The sex education programs had no measurable impact on pregnancy rates, negligible effect on the use of birth-control methods and insignificant influence on teenager’s decisions to engage in their first sexual intercourse, the researchers reported in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics.
“Existing data suggests that a classroom course alone cannot be expected to change sexual behavior in a direction that is in opposition to the adolescent’s sexual world as it is molded by the television, motion picture, music and advertising industries, as well as peer group and adult role models,” the researchers said.