How to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy Through Sexual Education

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Table of Contents

  • Cost-Effectiveness of Comprehensive Sexual Education: A Long-Term Perspective
  • Challenging Innocence: The Discourse of Purity Culture and Gender Roles
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • Reference List

Individuals and communities alike suffer from a shortage of medically accurate sexual education. Often, with groups who are either underserved and underfunded, or consistent with religious beliefs, sexual education is generally unavailable, or limited access to medically misleading education. Teen birth rates are greater in communities and educational districts that do not have access to medically accurate sexual education. Healthy sex habits, birth control options, sexually transmitted infections, and diseases, and consent are also subjects included in sexual education. We will reflect on how to prevent teenage pregnancy in this essay as students should learn about gender and sexual identity through sexual education - that helps to break down heteronormativity. Therefore, medically accurate sexual education could become a requirement in all public schools in the United States.

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Communities and school systems that do not have access to medically accurate sexual education have higher rates of teen pregnancy. For example, Cheng et al., 2014, not only discusses the abundance of abstinence-only sexual education but also delves into social expectations that cisgender women are not expected to enjoy sexual intercourse. As a cisgender women, I can relate to the stigmas surrounding sexual education and sexuality that this report depicts. The data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health from 1994 to 2008 demonstrates the poor success rate of abstinence-heavy sexual education services, which were the norm and are still the norm in most cases today. In turn, this demonstrates that the problem abstinence-focused sexual education aimed to solve created the opposite effect. Currently, thirty-nine states, in addition to the District of Columbia require sexual education and/or HIV education, with only seventeen states mandating that information in the curriculum be medically accurate.

Cost-Effectiveness of Comprehensive Sexual Education: A Long-Term Perspective

Sexual education encompasses critical topics such as safe sex practices, birth control options, sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and consent. As stated in Rosenthal et al., 2009, the Pathways/Senderos Center, a large neighborhood-based program to prevent unintended pregnancies and promote healthy teen development, is a groundbreaking teen pregnancy prevention program that is expected to provide social economic benefits until the participants in this study are young adults, signaling the need to go beyond pilot demonstrations to assess the long-term cost-effectiveness of equally robust approaches as they are more widely implemented in high-risk populations. From an economic perspective, this essay highlights the cost-benefit of robust sexual education services. While there is little evidence on the relationship between cost and impact of these initiatives, previous research has shown that comprehensive interventions for the prevention of teenage pregnancy that discuss sexual education, the development of life skills, and provide academic assistance are effective in decreasing births among teenagers enrolled. Using data from 1997 to 2003, an in-time intervention study was conducted to determine service cost-benefit as juveniles were enrolled; an extrapolation review was also used to quantify cumulative economic benefits and cost-benefit up to the age of thirty. The initiative's operational costs totaled $3,228,152.59, and it reduced the incidence of adolescent pregnancy from 94.10 to 40.00 per 1000 teenage girls, saving $52,297.84 in gross welfare costs and generating $2,673,153.11 in economic gains for the city.

Sexual education allows for students to learn about gender and sexual identities, dismantling heteronormativity. Yosso addresses privilege dependent on region or group capital, as well as access to resources based on region. Access to capital has a significant effect on every part of a community's future, including education. The inequity of education feeds into our society's underlying inequality, as people of color have traditionally been undererved and underfunded. Furthermore, these populations have higher recorded rates of underage pregnancy due to faulty sexual education curriculums. Critical Race Theory (CRT) shifts the study's attention away from the deficiency view of Communities of Color as environments rife with ethnic poverty's pitfalls, and also reflects on and benefits from the diversity of cultural knowledge, gifts, abilities, and connections that sometimes go unnoticed by socially marginalized people. The CRT educational system commits to developing schools that recognize the diverse abilities of people of color to achieve a larger objective of fighting for social and economic justice. Furthermore, as shown by the notion of cultural capital, CRT research tends to evolve on the notion that cultures of color are environments with several strengths.

Challenging Innocence: The Discourse of Purity Culture and Gender Roles

One could counter these previous points by stating that students should maintain a level of innocence. This is directly promoting purity culture, where women are perceived as tainted property if they have any knowledge surrounding sexuality. Singh studies various pieces of literature, as well as discusses the gender roles unwillingly pushed onto Latino teachers in the Bay Area in San Francisco, California. These teachers were instructed to personify hyper, almost toxic, masculine personalities towards their students. Furthermore, a White teacher scolded the Latino educator about the necessity of portraying a strict male teacher character to his male Latino students. Continuing, the White teacher called the students inattentive, cheaters, and liars to the Latino teacher, all within earshot of said students. This anecdote demonstrates toxic masculinity ingrained in the education system, and sexual education can diminish these antiquated gender roles.

Another argument as to why parents elect to not have their child participate in sexual education classes is the fear that their student will be more likely to become involved in teen pregnancy, although this concern usually concerns more daughters than sons. Additionally, purity culture is founded on misogyny, in that accolades surround men that have the same experiences and knowledge that women are condemned for. A complete idea around sexual education should not be ambiguous. If age is a concern as to why sexual education shouldn’t be taught, there are more resources to present the rudiments of sexual education in an age-appropriate manner.

Summary and Conclusions

A lack of medically accurate sexual education affects not only individuals but can have negative consequences for whole societies. Frequently, undeserved and underfunded populations, as well as religiously conservative groups, lack access to sexual education or have access to medically incorrect sexual education. Teen birth rates are higher in areas and school districts where medically accurate sexual education is inaccessible. Sexual education frequently includes issues like safe sex practices, birth control choices, sexually transmitted illnesses and disorders, and consent. Sexual education can educate children about gender and sexual orientation, which can help to break down heteronormativity. Although there are concerns with the level of appropriateness in the material presented and involvement in teenage pregnancy, studies have shown solutions to approach this situation that better serves communities. As a result, medically correct sexual education can become a necessity in all American public schools.

Reference List

  1. Kirby, D. (2007). Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

  2. Santelli, J., Ott, M. A., Lyon, M., Rogers, J., Summers, D., & Schleifer, R. (2006). Abstinence and abstinence-only education: a review of US policies and programs. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38(1), 72-81.

  3. Chin, H. B., Sipe, T. A., Elder, R., Mercer, S. L., Chattopadhyay, S. K., Jacob, V., ... & Community Preventive Services Task Force. (2012). The effectiveness of group-based comprehensive risk-reduction and abstinence education interventions to prevent or reduce the risk of adolescent pregnancy, human immunodeficiency virus, and sexually transmitted infections: two systematic reviews for the Guide to Community Preventive Services. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(3), 272-294.

  4. Hall, K. S., Moreau, C., & Trussell, J. (2012). Associations between sexual and reproductive health communication and health service use among US adolescent women. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 44(1), 6-12.

  5. Lammers, C., Ireland, M., Resnick, M., & Blum, R. (2000). Influences on adolescents' decision to postpone onset of sexual intercourse: a survival analysis of virginity among youths aged 13 to 18 years. Journal of Adolescent Health, 26(1), 42-48.

  6. Blake, S. M., Simkin, L., Ledsky, R., Perkins, C., & Calabrese, J. M. (2001). Effects of a parent-child communications intervention on young adolescents' risk for early onset of sexual intercourse. Family Planning Perspectives, 33(2), 52-61.

  7. Kohler, P. K., Manhart, L. E., & Lafferty, W. E. (2008). Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(4), 344-351.

  8. Underhill, K., Operario, D., Montgomery, P., & Abad, N. (2007). Systematic review of abstinence-plus HIV prevention programs in high-income countries. PLoS Medicine, 4(9), e275.

  9. Haffner, D. W. (2010). Facing facts: Sexual health for America’s adolescents. The Future of Children, 20(1), 31-44.

  10. Bearinger, L. H., Sieving, R. E., Ferguson, J., & Sharma, V. (2007). Global perspectives on the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents: patterns, prevention, and potential. The Lancet, 369(9568), 1220-1231.

  11. Kirby, D. B. (2008). The impact of abstinence and comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs on adolescent sexual behavior. Sexuality Research & Social Policy Journal of NSRC, 5(3), 18-27.

  12. World Health Organization. (2018). School-based interventions for preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy in adolescents. World Health Organization.

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