Surprise! Researchers say teaching kids about sex has “lifetime benefits”

Investing in the reproductive health of 10-14-year-olds can have a huge positive impact on body image and behavior

Topics: reproductive health, Reproductive Rights, very young adolescents, Sex Education, Body Image, body positivity, Sex, sexuality, gender identity, study, Research, public health, stis, unwanted pregnancy, Abortion,

Surprise! Researchers say teaching kids about sex has "lifetime benefits" (Credit: Shutterstock)

There are an estimated 1.2 billion adolescents alive in the world today. That’s more than there have ever been at any point in human history. Half are between the ages of 10 and 14, which means they’re on the threshold of puberty and in need of sexual education. That’s not just an opinion — it’s science.

According to a recent study from Georgetown University, 10- to 14-year-old kids (otherwise known as “very young adolescents”) are a group that’s often overlooked when it comes to teaching healthy sexuality, despite the fact that they’re at their prime for developing an understanding of good (and bad) reproductive health behaviors. The report, published in the current issue of Global Public Health, finds that educators, curriculum designers and policymakers tend to pay less attention to teaching very young adolescents, likely because “the long-term benefits and value of investing in them goes unrecognized.” (It could also be because of a misguided belief that telling kids about sex will make them more promiscuous, but that’s beside the point.)

You Might Also Like

The researchers focus primarily on very young adolescents in low- and middle-income countries, where the majority of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal mortality occur. For the most part, sexual education in these countries emphasizes HIV prevention for older teens, but the study finds that simply by teaching younger adolescents about the various aspects of healthy sexuality — emerging gender identity, body positivity and sexual attraction — the need for prevention education could go down. Basically, if 10- to 14-year-olds are made aware of the changes their bodies are about to go through and taught that these changes are neither shameful nor strange, they’ll be much more likely to maintain healthy reproductive behavior throughout their lives.

“Ten is not too young to help girls and boys understand their bodies and the changes that are occurring,” said Rebecka Lundgren, the study’s lead author and the director of Georgetown’s Institute of Public Health. “We need to reach 10- to 14-year-olds, often through their parents or schools, to teach them about their bodies and support development of a healthy body image and a strong sense of self worth. We also need to hear their voices — the voices of the under-heard and underserved. Ten is not too young.”

It seems pretty obvious that telling kids about their bodies is the best way to get them to feel comfortable in those bodies, and to teach them how to respect themselves as they transform into adults. But it’s always good to have a reminder. Ten is not too young.

 

 

Jenny Kutner

Jenny Kutner is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on sex, gender and feminism. Follow @jennykutner or email jkutner@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...