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'I make sure I am safe and I make sure I have myself in every way possible': African-American youth perspectives on sexuality education

Publication Abstract

Kimmel, Allison, Terrinieka T. Williams, Tiffany C. E. Veinot, Bettina W. Campbell, Terrance R. Campbell, Mark Valacak, and Daniel J. Kruger. 2013. "'I make sure I am safe and I make sure I have myself in every way possible': African-American youth perspectives on sexuality education." Sex Education, 13(2): 172-185.

High rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections play a major role in the physical, mental, and emotional health of young people. Despite efforts to provide sexuality education through diverse channels, we know little about the ways in which young people perceive school- and community-based efforts to educate them about sexual health. Forty-eight African-American young people participated in six focus groups to discuss their sexuality education experiences. Three major themes emerged that highlight experiences and perspectives on optimal strategies for promoting sexual health. These themes were: (1) experiences with school-based sexuality education (SBSE), (2) seeking information outside of schools, and (3) general principles of youth-centred sexuality education. Young people in the focus groups expressed their varying satisfaction with SBSE due to the restricted content covered and lack of comfort with the instruction methods. Participants described how they reached outside of SBSE for sexuality education, turning to those in the community, including local organisations, health care providers, and peers, also expressing variability in satisfaction with these sources. Finally, participants identified three important principles for youth-centred sexuality education: trust and confidentiality, credibility, and self-determination. These findings give voice to the often-unheard perspectives of African-American young people. Based on their responses, it is possible to gain a better understanding of the optimal combination of school-, family-, peer-, and community-based efforts to support young people as they move towards adulthood.

DOI:10.1080/14681811.2012.709840 (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC3623670. (Pub Med Central)

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