More than 95 percent of U.S. teenagers report that they have had “formal instruction” in sex education in school or other venues outside the home, the federal government said in a survey released Tuesday, but only about two-thirds have been taught about birth-control methods.
The report does not contain trend data, but researchers said their findings that an overwhelming number of U.S. teens receive sex education has been the status quo for at least a decade.
According to data from nearly 2,800 teens, 97 percent of boys and 96 percent of girls said they had received some form of formal sex education in a school, church, community center or some other place before they were 18, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) said.
In addition, large majorities of teens said they have talked with their parents about at least one major sex education topic, said the report.
The goal of the report is to update the nation on sex education - how many teens are getting formal sex education, who’s talking to parents, and what types of information they are receiving, said Joyce Abma, NCHS demographer and one of the report’s authors.
The data are drawn from teens who participated in the 2006-08 National Survey of Family Growth.
The most popular sex education topic concerned sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, with 93 percent of girls and 92 percent of boys recalling formal education on the risks of these kinds of infections.
The second most common lesson was on “how to prevent HIV/AIDS,” with 89 percent of boys and 88 percent of girls saying they received such education.
In the third most common topic, a slight gender gap appeared: About 87 percent of girls remembered being taught about “how to say ‘no’ to sex,” compared with 81 percent of boys.
This gender gap widened when it came to learning about “methods of birth control.” Seventy percent of girls said they had such instruction, compared with 62 percent of boys.
The “how to say ‘no’ to sex” lessons were most common if sex education was taught in elementary or middle school, the report said. However, middle school was often the place where the topic of birth control was also introduced - 52 percent of boys and 46 percent of girls said they learned about contraception and condoms in grades six, seven or eight.
The NCHS report also found that parents and teens were highly likely to discuss at least one sex education issue, including topics such as where to obtain birth control and how to use a condom.
About 80 percent of girls and about 70 percent of boys talked with a parent about at least one sex-related issue, the report said.
During their younger years, teenage girls are more likely than boys to approach their parents about sexual issues, but by ages 18 and 19, the boys are about as likely as girls to bring up these topics with a parent, said Ms. Abma.