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Summary: Parents Generally Approve of Abstinence Sex Education in Schools, Reject 'Comprehensive' Sex Education

According to a recent survey, parents generally approve of abstinence sex education, disapprove of comprehensive sex education curricula that have been promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, disapprove of teaching young people that homosexual love relationships can be as satisfying as are heterosexual relationships, and disapprove of their child being able to obtain contraception without their knowledge or approval.

  • A recent survey was conducted by the Coalition for Adolescent Sexual Health to track parental attitudes on sex education. Conducted by Zogby International, the poll reveals how parents view various approaches to sex education, including “comprehensive” sex education, abstinence-centered sex education, and programs traditionally promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This survey marks the first time parents have been polled using the exact material and guidelines for sex education curricula developed and endorsed by such groups as the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and Planned Parenthood. One of the major findings in this study was that parents overwhelmingly reject comprehensive sex education when they are asked questions that deal specifically with the topics included in comprehensive sex education. Other findings in this study are as follows: by a 4.6 to 1 margin, parents approve or strongly approve of abstinence sex education, by a 2.4 to 1 margin, parents disapprove or strongly disapprove of comprehensive sex education, by a 5.3 to 1 margin, parents disapprove or strongly disapprove of the information contained in comprehensive sex education curricula that have been promoted by the CDC; all demographic groupings strongly disapprove of comprehensive sex education, although the strongest opposition was found among non-white minority parents (Hispanics and Asians) and among parents who identified themselves as born-again Christians; and all demographic groups disapprove of comprehensive sex education curricula that have been promoted by the CDC. By a 4.4 to 1 margin, parents disapprove or strongly disapprove of teaching young people that homosexual love relationships can be as satisfying as are heterosexual relationships. It appears that parents have a more mixed opinion on the matter of having children taught factual or biological information. However, opposition from parents seems to increase substantially if a connection is perceived between their children and sexual activity. Lastly, when it comes to allowing teens to obtain contraception without parental approval, parents much more strongly disapprove when their own children are involved. About 46 percent of parents either strongly disapprove or disapprove of the idea that teens could obtain contraception without the permission of a parent. However, when this question was personalized, about 70 percent of parents either strongly disapprove or disapprove of their child being able to obtain contraception without their knowledge or approval.1

1Zogby Survey 2003: The Opinions of Parents Toward Character-Based, Abstinence-Until-Marriage Sex Education vs. Comprehensive (or “Abstinence-First”, Then Condoms) Sex Education, Coalition for Adolescent Sexual Health, February 13, 2003, pp. 1-5.

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