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    Editorial: our view of adolescent sexuality -- a focus on risk behavior without the developmental context [editorial]

    Ehrhardt AA

    AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH. 1996 Nov; 86(11):1523-5.

    Current US policies related to the sexuality of children and adolescents reflect a profound ambivalence. The widely held belief that sex education will promote sexual promiscuity is an example of the failure to conduct an impartial assessment of the issues related to child development and sexual behavior. At present, fewer than 10% of US children receive comprehensive sex education--a deficiency that has contributed to rates of teen pregnancy in the US that exceed those in other countries with comparable cultures and economies. US government policy reflects attempts to legislate morality through ineffective social welfare programs that punish recipients who bear a child. Behavioral research has taken a similar approach, presenting sexuality within the context of discussions of risk factors and negative consequences rather than examining its role in human development. Lacking is any consideration of sexual competence as a skill that children and adolescents must master through the acquisition of thoughtful information and experience. For example, it is possible that postponement of sexual behavior beyond the adolescent years has an adverse effect on normal human development. Moreover, a narrow focus on fear and disease threatens to lead to increased rates of sexual distortions and interpersonal problems for the current generation of young people.
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