The effects of sex education in promoting sexual and reproductive health in Portuguese university students

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By Marta Reis, Lúcia Ramiro, Margarida Gaspar de Matos, José AlvesDinizab
Published on The 2nd International Conference on Education and Educational Psychology 2011
Dec 17, 2011
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.11.266

Abstract
The goal of this research was to analyze the significance of sex education in schools and what are its effects in promoting healthy sexual behaviour among university students. The sample included 3278 students. Results showed students who had sex education in school mentioned more often having had fewer sexual risk behaviours (less occasional partners, less sex associated to alcohol and drugs, less STIs, less unwanted pregnancies and abortions). Most young people have reasonable knowledge, positive attitudes about contraception/STIs, and skills of condom use. Our study demonstrates positive associations between receiving sex education and protective sexual behaviours, knowledge, motivation and skills.

Conclusions
Findings show that the majority said that sex education should be addressed at schools, in the last years had sex education in school and mentioned that they feel very well informed with the issues discussed in sex education classes. University women and young people of the younger age group reported more often had sex education in school than male and older people.


From the entire sample that mentioned already having had sexual intercourse and having had sex education, most young people had had theirfirst sexual intercourseat the age of 16 or later, used the condom in theirfirst sexual intercourse and usually used the condom, but only 35.3% reported having used the condom always during sexual intercourse in the last 12 months. It was found that the students who have had sexual education mentioned more often having used the condom and the pill in 1st sexual intercourse, using the condom usually and always in the last 12 months.


Regarding risk behaviours, it was found that college students who had sex education in secondary school mentioned more often having had less occasional partners, less sex associated to alcohol and drugs, less STIs, less unwanted pregnancies and voluntary interruption of pregnancy than those who had not had sex education. These results have been found in other studies (Kirby, 2002; Kirby, Laris, & Rolleri, 2007; Mueller, Gavin, & Kulkarni, 2008). Most young people have reasonable knowledge about contraception and STIs, especially the students who have had sex education. They also show positive attitudes towards contraception (the students who have had sex education). As for behaviour skills of condom use, the students who had not had sex education showed more significant difficulty of using condoms and young people who had had sex education showed more significant self-efficacy using condoms. Findings are consistent with the model of information-motivated behavioural skills (IMB), applied to condom use (Fisher & Fisher, 1992; Fisher & Fisher, 1993). Knowledge alone about contraception and STIs does not grant a protective effect in relation to preventive sexual behaviour. This means that being well informed about contraception and the prevention of STIs does not guarantee that individuals will not perform behaviours that may put them at risk of becoming infected. Motivation and behavioural skills to perform preventive sexual behaviours have significant effects; consequently interventions that promote prevention of sexual behaviour should give emphasis on changing attitudes, perceptions of social support, intentions and skills’ acquisition.

Overall, results suggest that receiving formal sex education beforefirst sexual intercourse was associated with delaying sexual initiation, and greater use of contraception atfirst sexual intercourse. Receiving sex education beforefirst sexual intercourse may help contribute to reaching the Healthy People 2012 goals of reducing the number of adolescents who have sexual intercourse, reducing the number of adolescents younger than age 15 years who have sexual intercourse, and increasing the number of adolescents who use contraceptive methods.

This research provides results from recent data using a nationally representative sample of young people and highlights the potential benefit of sex education at school. Our study demonstrates positive associations between receiving sex education with several sexual risk behaviours, knowledge, motivation and skills.

Reference: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042811027273

Comment: Receiving sex education in school is proven to have a positive effect on students in reducing risky behaviors in this article.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Sherry, I think this article provides a good amount of examples that support what you are saying. It most certainly seems like Sex Ed is providing a great deal of evidence to support smart sex decisions. What I do find interesting is that the article states that both condom use in first sexual encounters and safe sex practices in terms of partner count were both a direct result of sex education. I am curious if different parts of Sex Ed facilitate these statistics or if they come from the same part of the curriculum.

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