Nearly all U.S. teenagers have had formal sex education, but only about two-thirds have been taught about birth-control methods, according to a report released last week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC report draws on surveys conducted between 2006 and 2008 of nearly 3,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 across the country.
It found that 97 percent of respondents said they had received formal sex education by the time they were 18. Formal sex education is defined in the report as instruction about sex at a school, church, community center, or other setting. The survey also asked students about more-specific topics such as how to say no to sex, birth control, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Lessons about saying no and STDs were more common than instruction on how to use a condom or other birth control, the study found.
Smaller percentages of students—about 70 percent of girls and 62 percent of boys—said they had received birth-control instruction by the end of high school.
In contrast, about 92 percent of boys and girls reported being taught about sexually transmitted diseases, and almost as high a percentage learned specifically about preventing infection with the virus that causes AIDS. About 87 percent of girls and 81 percent of boys said they were taught how to say no to sex.
The study also found that younger teenage girls were more likely than boys to have talked to their parents about sex and birth control and how to say no to sex.
Other research suggests that the percentages of students receiving comprehensive sex education declined from 1995 to 2002, and this report seems to indicate that the situation hasn’t changed since 2002, said John Santelli, a professor of population and family health at Columbia University.
He said federal government policies stressing abstinence-only sex education were a large reason for that initial decline. Those policies were still in place when the CDC study was done, Mr. Santelli said.
A version of this article appeared in the September 22, 2010 edition of Education Week as Survey Finds Most Teens Have Had Sex Education