To assess the characteristics of youths who received sex education by other means than parents or school.
5175 young adults (51% males) aged 24-28 took part in a Swiss national study on sexual health in 2017 and were divided in 5 groups according to their answer to a question on their main sex educator during adolescence: School or parents (n=2310; 44.6%), Friends (1940; 37.5%), Internet (400; 7.7%), Other (332; 6.4%) and No sex educator (194; 3.8%). Groups were compared on socio-demographics, pregnancy and abortion, age at first sexual experiences (contact, oral, vaginal and anal), contraception and/or protection use at first sexual intercourse, lifetime emergency pill use, lifetime history of sexual transmitted infection (STI), unwanted sexual experiences (USE), sexual intercourse without really wanting, sexual abuse, sexual orientation (identity, attraction and partner(s) sex), number of lifetime sexual partners and perception of their first vaginal sex (pleasant or not). Significant variables at the bivariate level were included in a multinomial analysis using the school/parents group as reference. Results are given as relative risk ratios (RRR).
At the bivariate level, groups differed for all studied variables except pregnancy and abortion, age at any first sexual experience, USE, sexual abuse and perception of their first vaginal sex. At the multivariate level, compared to the School/parents group, participants in the Friends group were more likely to be males (RRR: 1.42), to report STI history (1.37), lifetime emergency pill use (1.16), sexual intercourse without really wanting (1.25) and higher number of lifetime sexual partners (4 or more: 1.93), and less likely to report a below average family SES (0.72). Participants who used the Internet as their main resource for sexual education were more likely to be males (2.53), to report a STI history (1.50), not using protection at first intercourse (1.72), sexual intercourse without really wanting (1.69) and a non-heterosexual orientation (1.79). Those in the group Other were only more likely to report a STI history (1.53). Finally, participants who reported No sexual educator were more likely to be males (1.66) and tended to be less Swiss-born (0.62, p=0.055).
While recommendations advocate close collaboration between home and school in terms of sexual health education, less than one participant in two reported their parents or school as their primary sex educator. Overall, those relying on friends and the Internet seem to be those taking more risks. Sexual minority youths rely mainly on the Internet, probably reflecting a sex education not always inclusive. Finally, those reporting no sex educator do not seem to be doing worse, suggesting that there are other factors than sexual education to be considered in sexual health prevention among young people.
Sources of Support
Swiss National Science Foundation
© 2018 Published by Elsevier Inc.