An examination of the effects of sexual education on American college students: sexual knowledge, sexual behaviors, and sexual opinions




Gabrion, Karlee E.


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Roughly 10 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections occur in individuals aged 15 to 24 every year in the United States, and over 300,000 babies are born to women 15 to 19 years old annually (CDC 2011; CDC, 2013). Finding ways to combat these negative health outcomes has been a challenge for decades. One feasible solution to the problem may be sex education. The United States has three frequent modes of teaching public school students about sex including abstinence only, abstinence plus, and comprehensive sex education, with the primary focus being the health outcomes associated with sexual activity (Carroll, 2009; Gilbert, 2010; Schalet et al., 2014). Universities often offer courses in human sexuality that tend to focus on a wide array of topics and implement a more holistic view of sexuality (Hock, 2012). This study tested the effects that different types of sex education may have on college students' level of sexual knowledge, health, behaviors, and opinions. Results indicated that AOE, AOEP, and CSE programs did not have a significant effect on the outcome variables. However, students who had taken human sexuality in college had significantly higher levels of sexual knowledge, reported healthier sexual behaviors, and held more positive views toward sexual topics. These findings suggest that we may need to revise the way we educate teens and young adults about sexuality.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology.


Sex Education, Sexual Knowledge, Sexual Behaviors, Sexual Opinions



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