November 26, 2008

Who Should Teach Sex Ed?

Although teens seem to prefer peer-led sex education classes over teacher-led classes, they may not be any more effective at reducing abortions.

Researchers at the University College London conducted a study called the RIPPLE (Randomized Intervention of Pupil-led Sex Education) to evaluate whether the teaching of sexual health information by people of a similar age was effective in terms of reducing teenage abortion, pregnancy and improving sexual health among teenagers. The RIPPLE study formed because of a government initiative in the United Kingdom, a country with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Western Europe, to reduce pregnancies by half among 18-year-olds by 2010.

Twenty-seven schools and about 9,000 students age 13 to 14 participated. Each school was randomly assigned to either conduct peer-led or teacher-led sex education classes. Early results showed at age 16, girls who received the peer-led classes reported fewer unintended pregnancies, although the results were only marginally significant in comparison to the peer-led group. By age 20 years, there was no difference between the peer-led and teacher-led groups in terms of number of girls who had abortions. There were also no differences for male or female participants in both groups in terms of other aspects of sexual health.

Given that students reported preferring the peer-led classes, a more extended program is needed to establish whether they can have a more positive effect on teenage pregnancy rates.

SOURCE: PLoS Medicine, 2008


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