Statcast Number 19 Transcript

Dr. Abma: It turns out that more females than males have received formal instruction on how to say no to sex and also more younger female teens than younger male teens have received instructions on methods of birth control.

Statcast: September 15, 2010

Announcer: Joyce Abma is a demographer with the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland. Dr. Abma is one of the authors of a new study on sex education in teenagers in the U.S.

So what did you set out to learn with this new report?

Dr. Abma: Well we basically wanted to update the facts on how many teens are getting formal instruction on sex education topics, including four different topics that are specific. And also how frequently or what proportion of teenagers are talking to their parents about those topics on a national level.

Announcer: And what was the most interesting thing you learned in your research?

Dr. Abma: There were a couple of interesting things. One of the interesting findings was that the percent or proportion of teens who received formal instruction in school or church or community center or some other place was actually very high almost all was 97% of females and males had received some sort of instruction. So that continues to be extremely high.

Announcer: Do we know how that compares with the past?

Dr. Abma: We don’t know conclusive trend numbers from this particular report, that is forthcoming. We do know in a very general way that it has not changed that much in the past decade or so. There was one other interesting finding that came out, Its turns out that more females than males have received formal instruction on how to say no to sex. Also more younger female teens than younger male teens have received instruction on methods of birth control.

Announcer: Does that reflect that society feels that teen girls are more vulnerable

Dr. Abma: It could be reflecting that society’s regarding teen girls as needing to protect themselves more or take the initiative to prevent negative consequences. That may come through in sex ed programs and the way they’ve traditionally been formulated although there is now more emphasis on involving males than it was in the past.

Announcer: In general, how old are teens when they first receive formal sex education?

Dr. Abma: Well we asked teens aged 15 to 19 if they received these topics before the age of 18. We asked it in terms of grade because we found through the years that grade when they received the instruction is more easy for them to recall. We found that most of the instruction is first received in middle school. So that is grade six through nine. For certain topics a fair bit is received in high school. For example, among teen females who received instruction on methods of birth control they were equally likely to receive it in middle as high school.

Announcer: Does your report indicate how much teenagers discuss sex with their parents?

Dr. Abma: Yes, we did ask if male and female teenagers talked with a parent about various topics before the age of 18 and most of them do. About 70% of male teens talked with a parent about at least one of six different topics related to sex education. And about 80% of females talked to parents about at least one of those topics.

Announcer: Do we have any idea whether parents are discussing this more these days versus in the past?

Dr. Abma: Well our report did not go into trends in this particular version although we have trend data available and that is forthcoming but the general impression we get preliminarily is that there has been no change over the past decade or so.

Announcer: Now, are girls more likely than boys to discuss sex with their parents or vice versa?

Dr. Abma: Girls are a little bit more likely to discuss sex education topics with their parents than males. However, that holds true for younger teen females. So younger females more likely than younger males to discuss with parents. By the time they reach ages 18 to 19 years old it evens out so the males catch up.

Announcer: Anything else you’d like to raise here.

Dr. Abma: It was interesting when you looked at the specific topics that teens talked to their parents about to look at the male female differences a little more there. For example, more females talked to their parents than males if the topic was how to say no to sex and methods of birth control and where to get birth control maybe not surprisingly. And more males talked to their parents with the topic of how to use condoms and it was about the same for males and females for STDs and prevention of HIV.

Announcer: Our thanks to Joyce Abma for joining us on this edition of statcast. Statcast is produced by the public affairs office of the National Center for Health Statistics.


Page last reviewed: February 17, 2010