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JOURNAL OF APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY. 1986; 16(2):95-106.Government policy toward provision of sex education and contraception for adolescents is influenced by public opinion. This is reflected in the fact that recent program formulation appears to follow the conventional wisdom of a general conservative shift among the American public; i.e., recent policy toward adolescent pregnancy is conservative in the sense of being reactive rather than preventive. The validity of this conventional wisdom was checked by examining available data on public opinion toward sex education and birth control services for teenagers. However, these data reveal an upward, not a downward, trend in public approval of such services for adolescents, which runs counter to the conventional wisdom. The available data on American opinions and values demonstrate that the overall movement in attitudes decisively contradicts the idea of a simple conservative swing. Provision of more and better contraceptive services and sex education to teenagers is an important policy goal that would lower the incidence of adolescent pregnancy and would be supported by the American people. (author's modified.)
[Unpublished] 1981. Presented at the Fifty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Orthopsychiatric Association, New York, March 28-April 1, 1981. 14 p.Approximately 1.3 million teenage pregnancies result from the pervasive sexual activity which majority of teenagers aged 15-19 indulge in today. Adolescent pregnancy and childbirth has adverse health, psychosocial and economic effects for both adolescent parents and their children. Analysis of the trend in American public opinion toward sex education and contraception using data from the American Institute of Public Opinion (the Gallup Organization) shows that majority of the public have always favored sex education for teenagers and are almost as approving of specifically providing birth control information as part of the sex education. (Compared to Census data, Gallup samples of approximately 1500 cases have generally been found to be representative of age, sex, race and geographic area groupings; the 95% sampling tolerance for the samples is within 3% in either direction). There is also a generally upward trend in approval of providing contraception for teenagers. Since 1972, most Americans have approved of contraceptive services for teenagers. The favorable public opinion toward sex education and contraception is brought about by: 1) mass media exposure of the subject of teenage sexuality, 2) establishment of teenager programs by opinion leaders, and 3) recent recognition by courts of the rights of minors, including access to fertility control services on their own consent. Inspite of favorable public opinion however, current poliby concerning sex education and adolescent contraceptive services does not reflect public support. Only 30 states have policies expressly addressing sex education in schools, and even these policies do not reflect strong commitment to such instruction. Thus, most students do not receive sex education and over half of the teenage population at risk of unplanned pregnancy is not receiving contraceptive services. Half of initial premarital pregnancies by teenagers occur in the first 6 months of sexual activity. Thus, adolescent sex education programs must reach young people of both sexes before they begin sexual activity. Accessibility is the most important determinant of contraceptive use by teenagers. Provision of more and better teenage contraceptive services and sex education should be an important policy goal of the American people.