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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 levels.

Second Opinion

"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."

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