Write a 1,000-1,500-word essay on your sexual-socialization process.Discuss how you learned about sexuality and sexual issues in childhood/ adolescence (e.g., from parents, siblings, school, and the media).Compare your own processes to those discussed in Lecture 4 and the textbook.Include a minimum of two scholarly references.Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the GCU Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center.You are required to submit this assignment to Turnitin. Refer to the directions in the Student Success Center. Only Word documents can be submitted to Turnitin.Sexuality in Childhood/Adolescence and Sexuality Education
This lecture discusses how children learn about sexuality, the categories of knowledge children
typically understand, and techniques for talking with children about sex. It covers adolescent
attitudes and trends relating to sexual behavior as well as the environmental, physical, and
psychological factors that affect sexual behavior. The various approaches to sexuality education
are also discussed, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Sexual Socialization: What Children Know About Sex
Sexual socialization is the process whereby children learn and are educated about sexuality
(Santrock, 2007). Usually around the ages of 5−7, children become interested in the other sex,
their own bodies, and inquiries as to where babies come from (Crooks & Baur, 2008). This may
manifest itself in childhood games such as playing doctor or house. Masturbation is common
during this stage as well (Crooks & Baur, 2008). Because of their cognitive developmental level,
young children may be unable to understand abstract concepts such as “birds and bees,” and
parents often do not talk with their children in a developmentally appropriate way (Byers,
Sears, & Weaver, 2008). Around the age of 11 or 12, children are able to grasp abstract or
hypothetical concepts (Santrock, 2008). Goldman & Goldman (1982) outline several types of
understanding children may possess regarding reproduction:

Realists possess a basic understanding of the reproductive processes.
Miniaturists hold the understanding that sperm or eggs contain fully formed
which need to mature in the mother’s tummy.
Reporters are able to restate the facts of reproduction, but are unable to explain them.

Agriculturalists grasp that there are “seeds” planted in the soil, and are influenced by
idea of flowers and plants.

Manufactures believe that babies are fully assembled elsewhere, and then placed in the
belly of the pregnant woman.

Geographers are those that believe the baby grows inside the mother, but they possess
little more information regarding reproduction.
One of the major milestones in a parent’s life may be having the sex talk with their children. It is
not uncommon for parents to have one rather uninformative, uncomfortable talk with their
children when they begin to ask questions (Byers, Sears, & Weaver, 2008). Currently, there is a
push in the media to get parents to talk to their children about a variety of issues, including sex
(Boone & Lefkowitz, 2006). As with talks about drugs and alcohol, discussions about sex are
usually better when they are integrated into teachable moments throughout a child’s life,
rather than as a single talk at one point in development. As children usually begin to ask
questions around the age of 4, it is important for parents to speak with them on a level that is
developmentally appropriate, to use language that the child can understand, and for the
parents to continually check back with the child to ensure understanding (Crooks & Baur, 2008).
Adolescent Sexuality: Attitudes and Trends
Sexual activity during the teenage years is now a normative experience in the United States.
Although specific numbers vary, over half of all teens have engaged in sexual intercourse by the
age of 19 (The Alan Guttmacher Institute [AGI], 2006). The average age of first sex for men is
16.9, and 17.4 years old for females. The trend in the United States is for teens to delay
intercourse until they are older, but not necessarily until they are married (AGI, 2006). Of
sexually active young women in the United States, the majority had their first intercourse
experience with a partner that was 1 to 3 years older than they were, and approximately 20%
reported that their first intercourse experience was involuntary (AGI, 2006). In keeping with the
general societal norm of permissiveness with affection, over 75% of teen females report their
first intercourse occurred with a steady boyfriend, fiancé, husband, or someone with whom
they were living (AGI, 2006).
In terms of contraceptive use, the proportion of sexually active teens who use condoms has
risen between 1991 and 2005 (Eaton, 2005), and the majority of sexually active high school
students used contraceptives the first time they engaged in intercourse (AGI, 2006). Although,
in some cases, parents may not know that their teen is accessing reproductive health services,
60% of teens under the age of 18 report that their parents know they are utilizing these
services (AGI, 2006). Further data suggest that 70% of those whose parents are unaware of
their teen’s clinic visits would not use the clinic for contraceptive services, and 1/5 of these
teens would not use any contraceptive if they were required by law to notify their parents (AGI,
2006). Because only 1% of all adolescents who use clinical services indicated that laws requiring
them to notify their parents of their use would stop having sex, we can infer that laws requiring
parental notification of clinic contraceptive use would not deter teens from having sex, only
deter them from obtaining contraception (AGI, 2006). In terms of access to contraceptive
services, 21 states and the District of Colombia allow minors to access contraceptive services
without parental consent (AGI, 2006).
Influences on Adolescent Sexuality
Parental communication about sexual topics varies widely from family to family. In general,
parents tend to focus on safety issues such as STIs, HIV, and pregnancy and on abstinence until
marriage or a loving relationship, than on relationship issues, sexual difficulties, and behaviors
(Epstein & Ward, 2008). Additionally, parents may convey messages about gender roles and
expectations, as well as their own stories and personal experiences with sexuality (Epstein &
Ward, 2008). Although parents may believe they are their child’s primary source of information
about sexuality, research suggests that peers and the media play a much larger role in the
sexual socialization process in terms of the amount of information teens receive (Epstein &
Ward, 2008). Still, teens receive important messages about sexuality from their parents
(Epstein & Ward, 2008). Parents are usually the most significant source of “book knowledge”
regarding issues such as pregnancy and fertilization (Epstein & Ward, 2008). Parents who are
comfortable with their own sexuality and are confident in their knowledge are more effective at
communicating with their teens (Byers, Sears, & Weaver, 2008;Wyckoff, Miller, Forehand, Bau,
Fasula, & Long, 2007), which suggests that parents need to be educated about sexuality in
order to successfully communicate with their children (Byers, Sears, & Weaver, 2007). Research
also suggests that parents may postpone more in-depth discussions with their adolescents until
they are in the higher grades (e.g. senior high school) (Byers, Sears, & Weaver, 2007), but given
the median age of first intercourse, some of this communication may come too late.
Other environmental influences on sexuality include parent−child connectedness,
neighborhood characteristics, and pubertal timing. When teens have a close, connected
relationship with their parents, they tend to delay sexual intercourse and engage in fewer
sexually risky behaviors (Miller, 2002). Additionally, parental monitoring−though too strict
monitoring may have the opposite effect−family rules, and supervised dating all seem to reduce
teen sexual risk taking through promoting abstinence, delaying sexual intercourse, and having
fewer sexual partners (Miller, 2002). Early puberty tends to increase the likelihood of early
sexual debut (Miller, 2002). It appears that adolescents growing up in impoverished
neighborhoods with high crime rates and little hope tend to have earlier sexual debuts and
engage in more risky sexual behaviors (Miller, 2002).
As children age, the influence peers have on behavior becomes even more pronounced
(Santrock, 2007). During adolescence, peers become a major source of information regarding
sex, dating norms, and even birth control (Epstein & Ward, 2008). Peer communication often is
more permissive than parental communication in terms of sexual norms and behaviors,
encourages sexual freedom and expression, and reinforces traditional gender roles and
stereotypes (Epstein & Ward, 2008). Peers use jokes, personal experiences, and gossip to
convey sexual messages, and the general attitude conveyed is that heterosexual sex is positive
and even expected (Epstein & Ward, 2008).
Even when television programs are not sexually explicit, they still contain information that leads
to sexual socialization of children and adolescents (Ward, 1995). Information abounds
regarding gender roles, norms and expectations, whom to have sex with, and why (Ward,
2005). Through extensive analysis of media images, three basic findings have emerged: verbal
innuendo is the most common form seen on TV, followed by erotic touching, hugging, or
kissing; most sexual language and actions occurs between unmarried characters; and
information regarding STIs, contraception, and abortion are rare (Epstein & Ward, 2008; Ward,
1995). Regardless of the particular theme, it is clear that sexual messages abound in the TV
programming children and adolescents watch (Ward, 1995). The general message children and
adolescents receive, particularly from prime time TV watching, is that sex is an exciting
competition or game between men and women, and that one has certain strategies (e.g.
looking good) to ensure victory (Ward, 1995). The next logical question after examining the
content would be: Are teens actually affected by the messages they see? It appears they are.
Research suggests that when young boys view media with high sexual content, they have a
greater acceptance of recreational and casual sex, endorse gender stereotypes with greater
frequency, and tend to view women as sex objects (Epstein & Ward, 2008).
Sexuality Education
There is considerable variation in what is taught in sexuality education classrooms throughout
the country (AGI, 2006). Despite this variation, sexuality education programs tend to fall into
three major categories: abstinence only, abstinence plus, and comprehensive. Abstinence-only
programs are those in which abstinence until marriage is stressed and contraception, if covered
at all, is often taught as an ineffective option (AGI, 2008). The majority of abstinence-only
programs in the United States contain inaccurate data regarding STIs, contraceptives, and
abortion (U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform, 2004).
Abstinence-plus programs are those that stress abstinence until marriage, but also cover
contraceptive and other safe-sex behaviors (Crooks & Baur, 2008). Comprehensive and clinicbased programs are those in which contraceptives and safe-sex options are covered and
stressed, and sometimes contraceptive services are available from the school or associated
clinics (Crooks & Baur, 2008). Programs vary widely by region, with abstinence-only programs
most widely taught in the South, abstinence-plus programs most widely taught in the Midwest,
West, and Northeast, and comprehensive programs taught primarily in the Northeast and West
(Landry, Kaeser, & Richards, 1999).
Currently, the District of Colombia and 20 other states mandate that public schools teach sex
education. Twenty-three states require that abstinence be stressed, 10 require that abstinence
be covered, and 14 require schools to cover contraception−though none require that
contraception be stressed (AGI, 2008). In terms of HIV/STI education, 26 states require
abstinence be stressed when teaching HIV/STI education, 11 require that abstinence be
covered when discussing HIV/STI, and 17 require that programs cover contraception/safe-sex
topics as part of an HIV/STI curriculum (AGI, 2008).
Although there is a vocal minority (15% of Americans) who want abstinence-only education to
be the only taught in schools, the majority of Americans (94%) of parents believe that sexuality
education should also cover contraception (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2004). Comprehensive
sex education is also favored by many professional associations, including the American
Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological
Association, American Public Health Association, and the National Institutes of Health
(Boonstra, 2002). Despite this support for comprehensive and abstinence-plus sexuality
education in schools, funding for abstinence-only education has continued to rise, with more
than $176 in federal and state funding (Dailard, 2006)., Though parents and educators are often
as at odds with one another, there is little difference between what family life educators and
parents feel is important regarding what should be taught to children and when (Croft &
Asmussen, 1992).
There appears to be a large disconnect between what is being taught in schools, and what
teachers and parents believe should be taught. Both teachers and students report wanting
more comprehensive information in sexual education programs, especially in the areas of
condom use, sexual orientation, STIs, birth control, how to handle sexual assaulted, how to talk
to a partner, and how to handle pressure to have sex (Darroch, Landry, & Singh, 2000; Kaiser
Family Foundation, 2000)
Although there is considerable debate regarding what should and should not be taught in sex
education, rigorous evaluation research to date suggests that abstinence-only programs do not
reduce teen pregnancy and do not delay sexual activity (Satcher, 2001). Further, despite
popular conceptions to the contrary, comprehensive sexuality education does not promote
sexual activities among teens (Satcher, 2001). Both programs that include abstinence and
comprehensive aspects (abstinence-plus) and comprehensive sexuality education programs
help teens use contraceptives regularly, delay their sexual debut, and reduce their number of
sexual partners, all of which lead to reduced risk of teen pregnancy and STI/HIV infection
(Manlove, Romano-Paillio, & Ikramullah, 2004).
Sexual socialization comes from a variety of sources, including parents, peers, media, and
formal sexuality education. There is considerable variation in the content and timing of this
sexual socialization. Regardless of the method of socialization, it is important that teens receive
accurate and timely information so they can make informed decisions regarding their own
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children in Kindergarten to grade 8. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 86-96.
Croft, C.A., & Asmussen, L. (1992). Perceptions of mothers, youth, and educators: A path
toward détente regarding sexuality education. Family Relations, 41, 452-459.
Crooks, R. & Baur, K. (2008). Our Sexuality (10th Ed.). Australia: Thomson-Wadsworth.
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