To What Extent Are You Targeting Factors Known to Affect Sexual Behavior?

Effective curriculum-based sex education include multiple activities to address important malleable risk and protective factors, or those that can be changed through intervention (Kirby, Lepore, & Ryan, 2005; Kirby, 2007; Kirby et Lepore, 2007; Manlove et al., 2002). Comprehensive sex education programs commonly address both sexual factors, such as sexual communication skills, and nonsexual factors, such as educational and occupational goals. For example, evidence-based programs, such as the Carrera Program, Raising Healthy Children, and Teen Outreach Program, use positive youth development approaches (service learning, academic support, and mentoring) to promote protective factors which reduce risk for problem behaviors.

The following are protective factors programs should aim to promote (Brindis & Davis, 1998; Kirby & Lepore, 2007):

   Sexual factors

      • Knowledge about reproductive health, contraceptive options, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and the ways in which STIs can be contracted;
      • Perceived risks (perceived risk of becoming pregnant/acquiring an STD or HIV; perceived negative consequences of pregnancy and STDS/HIV)
      • Values (values related to virginity)
      • Peer use of condoms
      • Perceived benefits of using condoms
      • Self-efficacy for resisting sex and using condoms
      • Skills related to sexual decision-making
      • Parent-child communication about sex and condoms or contraception, especially before teen initiates sex
      • Skills related to communicating about sex and contraception with partn

   Nonsexual factors

      • High educational goals and aspirations
      • Occupational goals and plans for the future
      • Involvement in the community
      • Religious participation
      • Sports participation

Programs can also seek to reduce the following risk factors:


   Sexual factors

      • Lack of knowledge about sexual health
      • Lack of access to contraceptive services
      • Sexually active peers
      • Beliefs that condoms reduce sexual pleasure
      • Permissive attitudes and values about premarital sex
      • Perceived norms about sex being common (the perception that many of one’s peers are sexually active)


   Nonsexual factors

      • Poor school performance
      • Lack of parental support
      • Drug or alcohol use
      • Depression or thoughts of suicide
      • Physical fighting and carrying weapons

Targeting these risk and protective factors is important because they are related to sexual risk taking and rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. If these factors are not being targeted by your program, you may want to revisit the selection of your program to see if it is evidence-based.

“The Tool to Assess the Characteristics of Effective Sex and STD/HIV Education Programs (TAC)” (Kirby, Rolleri, & Wilson, 2007) includes a section to assess important factors known to affect sexual behavior. This tool could be administered to assess whether your program’s curriculum and/or content addresses these risk and protective factors. Youth questionnaires may be collected periodically to assess whether improvements are occurring in these factors over time (see “Identify Outcomes” section on home page).

 

Surveys/Assessments

 

Sources Cited

Brindis, C., & Davis, L. (1998). Communities responding to the challenge of adolescent pregnancy prevention:  Mobilizing for action. Part 1 of a 4-part series examining successful strategies for pregnancy prevention programs. Washington, D.C.: Advocates For Youth. Available at:  http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/communitiesresponding1.pdf

Kirby, D., Lepore, G., & Ryan, J. (2005). Sexual risk and protective factors: Factors affecting teen sexual behavior, pregnancy, childbearing. Washington DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Available at: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/ea2007/protective_factors_FULL.pdf

Kirby, D. (2007). Emerging answers: Research findings on programs to reduce teen pregnancy. Washington, D.C.: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Available at http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/

Kirby & Lepore (2007). Factors affecting teen sexual behavior, pregnancy, childbearing and sexually transmitted disease: Which are important? Which can you change? Scotts Valley, CA: ETR Associates. 

Kirby, D., Rolleri, L.A., Wilson, M.M (2007). The Tool to Assess the Characteristics of Effective Sex and STD/HIV Education Programs (TAC). Baltimore, MD: Healthy Teen Network. 

Manlove J, Terry-Humen E, Papillo A, Franzetta K,Williams S, & Ryan S. (2002). Preventing teenage pregnancy, childbearing, and sexually transmitted diseases: what research shows.Washington, DC. Child Trends. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/files/k1brief.pdf