July 20, 2016
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AAP recommends pediatricians provide sex education to patients

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Developmentally appropriate sex education yields reduced risks for adolescent pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, according to a clinical report from the AAP.

“Education about sexuality that is provided by pediatricians can complement the education children obtain at school or at home, but many pediatricians do not address it,” Cora C. Breuner, MD, MPH, pediatrician in the division of adolescent medicine and the orthopedics and sports medicine department at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and colleagues wrote. “In a review of health maintenance visits, one of three adolescent patients did not receive any information on sexuality from their pediatrician, and if they did, the conversation lasted less than 40 seconds.”

The AAP’s Committee on Adolescence and Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health wrote the report to provide pediatricians with updated information on evidence-based sexual and reproductive health education since its original document was published in 2001. In it, the authors compiled 12 clinical practice guidelines that address modes of delivery, online resources and strategies for children with disabilities.

Breuner and colleagues wrote that data have shown that children and teenagers prefer sex education discussions with a pediatrician who is nonjudgmental and open to answering questions on sensitive topics. It is also important, they said, that pediatricians understand how sexuality is portrayed in music and music videos, pornography, television programs and commercials, and influenced in social media. Importantly, they added, sexually active patients should be screened for sexual violence and nonconsensual encounters.

The researchers said data from the National Survey of Family Growth reported 11% of women and men who had sex for the first time at age 20 years experienced nonconsensual first encounters. Further, they recommended that children and adolescents with disabilities be screened more often because they are more prone to sexual abuse.

The researchers reported that data from sex education delivered in school and at home may not be unbiased or discussed with openness and a high level of comfort. A comparison study from 2012, including high schools, elementary schools and middle schools, demonstrated that middle schoolers in the United States were taught “how to say no to sex” instead of discussing topics. Regarding home-based discussions, the researchers pooled data on 12 studies on parental communication about sex that showed parents who received sex education training from a health care provider experienced better communication with their adolescents about sex.

“It is clear that parents would benefit from support to improve communication with their adolescents about sex,” the researchers wrote. “All children and adolescents need to receive accurate education about sexuality to understand ultimately how to practice healthy sexual behavior.” – by Kate Sherrer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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