New York, NY— A new study in the journal PLOS ONE finds that the overwhelming majority of U.S. parents support sex education in both middle and high school, regardless of their political affiliation. More than 93 percent of parents said sex education in middle and high school is important, including a strong majority of parents who self-identified as Republican.
The study used data from a large, diverse sample of 1,633 parents of children aged nine to 21 in order to examine the perceived importance of sex education in middle and high school, as well as parental support for particular topics. It also examined whether there were differences between parents who identified as Republicans and Democrats, a topic that has rarely been examined in past research on sex education.
The research found that overall, parents are extremely supportive of including a wide range of sex education topics in both middle (MS) and high school (HS): puberty (MS 97.7%, HS 95.1%), healthy relationships (MS 92.3%, HS 96.1%), abstinence (MS 94.8%, HS 96.4%), birth control (MS 86.3%, HS 94.4%), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (MS 96.2%, HS 98.1%), and sexual orientation (MS 78.0%, HS 85.0%). While parents who identified as Democrats were more likely than those who identified as Republicans to support including information about healthy relationships, birth control, STDs, and sexual orientation in both middle and high school sex education, a strong majority of Republican parents also reported wanting all of these topics included.
“This research confirms that sex education has overwhelmingly bipartisan support and that parents want sex education to cover a range of topics in both middle and high school,” said Dr. Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the lead author of the study. “We know from hundreds of studies that quality sex education can make a real difference in adolescents’ overall health and well-being. The bottom line is that all young people need sex education and access to health care to stay healthy and safe.”
A Guttmacher Institute study released last year found that U.S. teens are receiving less sex education than they were a decade ago, and a 2015 report showed that fewer than half of high schools and just one in five middle schools in most U.S. states teach all the essential sex education topics recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sex education and access to family planning services are critical in helping teens avoid unintended pregnancy and keep themselves healthy. The U.S. has reached the lowest rate of unintended pregnancy in 30 years, the rate of pregnancy among teens in the country has reached a historic low, and more young people are delaying sexual activity and using birth control when they do have sex.
Each year, Planned Parenthood provides education and outreach to 1.5 million people of all ages across the U.S. and to millions more online. Planned Parenthood also offers interactive digital tools designed to help young people stay healthy and better plan for their futures. They can also find information and submit questions on our Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages or live-chat or text (774636) a health educator for instant support. Planned Parenthood also created videos to model healthy communication for young people around consent as well as safer sex and STDs.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood affiliates serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.