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Increased Parent Support for Comprehensive Sexuality Education Over 15 Years

      Abstract

      Purpose

      Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) has been shown to reduce sexual risk-taking behaviors and promote healthy sexual development, and studies have shown high support for this approach. However, the past decade has seen many changes in the political landscape and social controversies. The present study reports on an updated survey and analysis of changes in support from 2006 to 2021.

      Methods

      Survey data were collected by telephone in 2006 (N = 1,605) and online and in-person in 2021 (N = 719) from separate samples of Minnesota parents of school-age children. Parents responded to items regarding preferences for CSE, support for teaching numerous specific sexuality education topics, and the grade level at which topics should be introduced. Chi-square tests and logistic regression (with weighted 2021 data) were used to detect differences in support between survey years and across demographic and personal characteristics.

      Results

      At both time points, approximately 90% of parents thought that CSE should be taught in schools, with significant increases in support within several demographic categories. Support for including all specific topics was high, including for topics typically considered highly controversial (e.g., gender identity, 68.7%; abortion, 77.7% in 2021). Parents endorsed introducing most topics in elementary or middle school years.

      Discussion

      Findings suggest that policy makers and educators in Minnesota can be confident of strong parental support for CSE covering a wide range of content to meet students’ needs. Advocacy and action to advance the use of national sexuality education standards are in keeping with the views of the overwhelming majority of parents of school-age children.

      Keywords

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