Mixed results for study assessing effectiveness of peer-led sex education

07/21/04

NB. Please note that if you are outside North America, the embargo for LANCET press material is 0001 hours UK Time 23 July 2004.

Results of a study in this week's issue of THE LANCET suggest a modest benefit for the use of peers (older pupils) to deliver sex-education classes rather than teachers. However the study does not show any effect of such peer-led sex education in reducing the incidence of unprotected first intercourse by age 16 years.

The UK has the highest under-18 pregnancy rate in western Europe; as a result, the UK Government has set a strategic target of halving the number of such pregnancies--currently 90,000 a year--by the end of the decade. Judith Stephenson (University College London, UK) and colleagues at the Institute of Education, UK, did a randomised trial involving 8000 pupils from 27 schools in England. The study investigated whether sex education given to year 9 pupils (aged 1314 years) was more effective if given by peers (1617 year-old pupils) than conventional sex education given by teachers. Peer-led education consisted of three one-hour sessions encompassing issues such as contraception, information about sexually transmitted infections, and discussions about relationships. Role play and teaching in small groups was a feature of peer-led sex education less commonly used in conventional teacher-led classes.

Fewer girls reported intercourse before age 16 if they had been given sex education by peers (35% compared with 41% for girls who had received teacher-led sex education); there was no difference among boys. The type of sex education received had no effect on the proportion of pupils reporting unprotected first intercourse: around 8% for girls and around 6% for boys. Fewer girls in the peer-led group reported pregnancies (2% versus 3% for the teacher-led group) but the numbers were too small to draw firm conclusions at this stage. Further evaluation of the effect on teenage pregnancy is in progress. Peer-led classes were popular, although more than half of girls and around a third of boys would have preferred single-sex classes.

Dr Stephenson comments: "Peer-led sex education was effective in some ways, but broader strategies are needed to improve young people's sexual health. The role of single-sex sessions should be investigated further. The longer-term follow-up results of this study assessing sexual behaviour and pregnancy up to age 20 years should give a fuller evaluation into the effect of peer-led sex education in schools.

In an accompanying commentary (p 307), Roger Short (University of Melbourne, Australia) concludes: "In planning better educational strategies for English schools in the future, the team would profit from studying the way the Chinese have tackled peer-group sex education for young people, with considerable success. To quote Tony Blair: "As a country, we can't afford to continue to ignore this shameful record." But to succeed, it is going to require a concerted effort on the part of all concerned--Government, schools, parents, teachers, and pupils. Wake up, England!"

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.
-- Henry David Thorea
 
Stumble This Article Print Email
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Users Online: 14070
Join Us Now!



 




Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code