Daring New Sex Ed Tactic
AIM News with CNN, August 2, 2004
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when the adults leave the room and older teens take on the role
of teaching younger teens all about sex and birth control? It
gets interesting, that's what.
Researchers at Great Britain's University College, London
created a study with 8,000 participating students at 27 British
schools. England has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in all
of western Europe with some 90,000 pregnancies annually.
The study: The 8,000 students who were ages 13 and 14 were
divided into two groups. One group was taught sex education
classes by trained 16- and 17-year-old students, while the
second group was given conventional lessons by adult
instructors. The goal was to see if there was a difference in
sexual behavior and teenage pregnancies between the two groups,
reports Reuters and the BBC News Online. It was thought that
safe sex messages would carry more weight coming from older
teens, rather than grownups.
The good news results:
Significantly fewer girls in the peer-led group reported having
sexual intercourse by the time they reached 16. Specifically,
when those 13- and 14-year-old girls turned 16, 35 percent of
those who had been in the peer-led sex ed group reported having
had sex, compared to 41 percent in the group taught by adults.
Girls and boys in the peer-led group had a better knowledge
about how to protect themselves against sexually-transmitted
Fewer girls became pregnant, 2 percent from the peer-led classes
vs. 3 percent in the adult-led classes, but the researchers said
the numbers involved were too small to draw firm conclusions at
The bad news results:
There was no effect on the boys' behavior.
There was no difference between the two groups in contraceptive
use during the first sexual experience.
Despite the formal sex education classes, nearly half the young
people learned the most about sex outside school.
"It is encouraging that we are showing some effect on behavior,"
lead study author Dr. Judith Stephenson told Reuters. "Based on
our findings, getting older teenagers to teach the younger ones
about sexual health and relationships could be a step in the
The students will continue to be followed until they are 20
years old for a fuller evaluation of the effects of sex
education on sexual behavior and pregnancy. These interim study
results were reported in The Lancet medical journal.
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