To assess sixth graders' knowledge and curiosity about sex-related topics that can guide the development of sexual health education and healthcare delivery.
Sixth graders (n = 795) in eight ethnically diverse schools participating in an evaluation of a sex education curriculum submitted 859 anonymous questions that were content analyzed. The χ(2) analysis examined whether the themes varied by coed/single-sex environments or by school-level sexual risk.
Sexual activity, female anatomy, reproduction, and puberty were the most frequently mentioned topics, whereas, questions on STIs, sexual violence, and drug/alcohol use were fewer. Questions that avoided sexual topics came from lower sexual-risk schools; students at higher-risk schools asked about sexual initiation, contraception, vaginal and anal sex, general health, and pain during sex. Single-sex classrooms elicited more direct and explicit questions about sex.
The results are relevant to educators and healthcare providers who ask and answer questions from early adolescents regarding sexual health.