Sex Education Works, Study Shows
Teens Who Have Formal Sex Education Delay Sexual Activity, Researchers Find
Perspective on Sex Ed
Earlier studies have not always found a beneficial effect for sexual
education, Mueller tells WebMD. As to why her study did, she says "it
could be related to the fact that we were able to control for the sequence of
events." That is, they knew if the sex education had taken place after
sexual activity had begun or not.
"Receiving sex education before the first sexual activity has the most
positive outcome," she says.
The age at which sex ed is taught varies, but a recent national study of
middle school teachers found that 72% of fifth- and sixth- grade teachers
reported that sex education was taught at their school at one or both grade
"This study is one more piece of evidence that sex education has the
potential to influence teen sexual behavior in a positive way," says Laura
Lindberg, PhD, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a New
York based nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health
research and policy analysis.
Still, the study has limitations, she tells WebMD. "The study doesn't
shed light on the debate about which approach is better." Other research
does, however, she says.
"It's a big-picture study," she says of the CDC research. And the
increased benefit to high-risk groups, she says, is not that great.
Message for Parents
Sex education should not be confined to one class, Lindberg says, but
parents shouldn't leave it all to the schools, either.
"It's important to have ongoing, age appropriate sex education," she
says. "You're providing your children sex education when you teach them the
name of body parts, when you kiss your husband in front of them."