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Let Us Talk About Sexual Immaturity in Adolescence: Implications for School-Based Sex Education

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Abstract and Figures

While rates of sexual activity among adolescents have declined, they remain high among adolescents living in poverty. Risky sexual behaviors are often compounded, placing adolescents at greater risk for increased prevalence of sexual behaviors during later adolescence and other behaviors that may compromise later life chances. Sexual immaturity may influence sexual initiation and trajectories of sexual behavior. In the current study, using a growth curve framework, data from the Mobile Youth and Poverty Study are used to model how sexual immaturity develops across adolescence as a function of age, gender, and sex education. Results suggest that girls are less sexually immature than boys, regardless of exposure to school-based sex education. For girls, sexual immaturity trajectories were similar throughout adolescence. However, during early adolescence, boys receiving school-based sex education had more immature sexual beliefs than those who had not. By middle adolescence, these differences had disappeared, and by late adolescence, boys receiving sex education had more mature attitudes boys who had not. Our results suggest that school-based sex education curricula should take into consideration how sexual maturity is portrayed among adolescents, particularly those who live in impoverished communities.
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Lets Talk About Sexual Immaturity in Adolescence: Implications
for School-Based Sex Education
Anneliese C. Bolland
1
&Elizabeth Schlichting
2
&Qshequilla Mitchell
3
&Jasmine Ward
4
&John M. Bolland
5
Published online: 6 August 2018
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018, corrected publication November/2018
Abstract
While rates of sexual activity among adolescents have declined, they remain high among adolescents living in poverty. Risky
sexual behaviors are often compounded, placing adolescents at greater risk for increased prevalence of sexual behaviors during
later adolescence and other behaviors that may compromise later life chances. Sexual immaturity may influence sexual initiation
and trajectories of sexual behavior. In the current study, using a growth curve framework, data from the Mobile Youth and
Poverty Study are used to model how sexual immaturity develops across adolescence as a function of age, gender, and sex
education. Results suggest that girls are less sexually immature than boys, regardless of exposure to school-based sex education.
For girls, sexual immaturity trajectories were similar throughout adolescence. However, during early adolescence, boys receiving
school-based sex education had more immature sexual beliefs than those who had not. By middle adolescence, these differences
had disappeared, and by late adolescence, boys receiving sex education had more mature attitudes boys who had not. Our results
suggest that school-based sex education curricula should take into consideration how sexual maturity is portrayed among
adolescents, particularly those who live in impoverished communities.
Keywords School-based sex education .Longitudinal analysis .Poverty .Adolescence .Adultification .Immaturity
Introduction
Although rates of teen pregnancy have been falling during the
past decade, sexual behavior among adolescents (and
especially among low-income, minority adolescents) remains
a concern. Poverty and minority status likely affect adolescent
development in ways that promote and reinforce immature
beliefs and attitudes, which potentially result in risk behaviors.
School-based sex education (SBSE) programs provide one
means to increase knowledge and understanding of sexuality
and sexual behavior, which potentially mitigate sexual imma-
turity. In this paper, we explore sexually immature beliefs and
attitudes, and how they may be affected by SBSE, in a popu-
lation of students living in highly impoverished communities.
Findings show that (a) boys have more sexually immature
beliefs and attitudes than girls; (b) participation in SBSE pro-
grams is associated with different levels of these beliefs and
their trajectories over time (albeit not always in the expected
direction); and (c) the trajectories ofthese beliefs,as a function
of SBSE, differ by gender.
Adolescent Development and Adultification
Adolescence is a period of rapid development, situated be-
tween childhood and adulthood, and much of the development
occurring between childhood and adulthood is linear; howev-
er, with respect to some development, adolescence is a period
of disruption. Identity development, for example, is fairly lin-
ear from childhood, through adolescence, and to adulthood
(Erikson, 1956, although, Eriksons Identity Development al-
so suggests that growth depends on crisis). Similarly, cogni-
tive development is fairly linear from childhood, through ad-
olescence, and to adulthood (Piaget, 1971,1972). On the other
*Anneliese C. Bolland
acbolland@ua.edu
1
Institute for Communication and Information Research, The
University of Alabama, Box 870172, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA
2
Arts and Sciences, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL,
USA
3
Academic Affairs, The University of Montevallo, Montevallo, AL,
USA
4
Health Studies, Texas Womens University, Denton, TX, USA
5
Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Alabama,
Tuscaloosa, AL, USA
Sexuality Research and Social Policy (2019) 16:357372
https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-018-0348-7
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... There are a higher number of learners who engage in risky sexual behaviour with a resultant higher prevalence of HIV/STIs and teenage pregnancy in more disadvantaged areas and in the schools in these areas (Bagnol et al., 2010). Therefore, the schools in these disadvantaged settings require the most support; however, they are the lowest resourced (Bolland, Schlichting, Mitchell, Ward, & Bolland, 2018). The LO educators in these disadvantaged schools face the highest frequency and intensity of challenges; however, they have the least resources at their disposal to assist and support them in teaching beneficial sexuality education to learners (Bolland et al., 2018). ...
... Therefore, the schools in these disadvantaged settings require the most support; however, they are the lowest resourced (Bolland, Schlichting, Mitchell, Ward, & Bolland, 2018). The LO educators in these disadvantaged schools face the highest frequency and intensity of challenges; however, they have the least resources at their disposal to assist and support them in teaching beneficial sexuality education to learners (Bolland et al., 2018). Educators and schools in these areas are therefore expected to not only be aware of and adapt their teaching content and style to these specific challenges in order to successfully address them but to overcome the barrier of inadequate resources via their use of best suited pedagogues for these areas and learners. ...
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