Let’s talk about sex: Sexual health topics among adolescents and youth development professionals

sexual health teens community based organizations wordle

Kids, sexual health issues, community organizations? That’s the core of new research article in American Journal of Sexuality Education and supported by Academic Edge, Inc. Do issues arise? Why, yes, yes they do!

New research article by Academic Edge team members describes sexual health issues teens talk about in community-based organizations.

Sex. It’s everywhere. It’s, well, what we do. But we don’t talk about it. Or do we? Kids certainly do, and in the darnedest places. And not just the sex thing, but sexual health. The issues identified included relationships, abuse, personal skills, and much more than intercourse and sexual acts.
–Rick Goldsworthy, PhD, principle investigator

Discovering Sexual Health Conversations Between Adolescents and Youth Development Professionals

Our research team was recently involved in an effort, alongside researchers from IU School of Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical School, to understand whether young people talk about sexual health issues with the professionals who work in youth-serving community-based organizations, like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and many more. And, if they do talk about sex, what exactly do they talk about?

Well, turns out… they do, quite frequently, and about a wide range of topics, that are well beyond what one might expect. So, we wrote an article about it. It’s been published in the American Journal of Sexuality Education, and it’s available now.

Who was involved?

NIODITA GUPTA, MD, MPH, AASTHA CHANDAK, BTECH, GLEN GILSON, MHA, MBA, FACHE, and AJA KNEIP PELSTER, MPH University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA

DANIEL J. SCHOBER, PhD, MPH Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, Omaha, NE, USA

RICHARD GOLDSWORTHY, PhD Academic Edge, Bloomington, IN, USA

KATHLEEN BALDWIN, MSW, CSE, CLC Tell Kathleen Anything LLC J.

DENNIS FORTENBERRY, MD, MS Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN, USA

CHRISTOPHER FISHER, PhD University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA

Supported by a Grant from the National Institutes of Health: MightyResource.org

The study itself was supported in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health to Richard Goldsworthy, through the Academic Edge, Inc, and is part of a larger project to understand and support CBO-based YDP to better support youth sexual health issues in their organizations. It’s a part of our MightyResource.org: Sex in the CBO project, if you’d like more information, and to explore some of the early resources, including video case studies and interactive activities.

The Bottom Line

Youth development professionals (YDPs) working at community based organizations are in a unique position to interact with the adolescents because they are neither parents/guardians nor teachers. The objectives of this study were to explore qualitatively what sexual health issues adolescents discuss with YDPs and to describe those issues using the framework of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) comprehensive sexuality education guidelines. YDPs reported conversations with adolescents that included topics related to the SIECUS key concepts of human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, and sexual health.

Top sexual health related issues encountered by YDP in their work with youth serving CBOs 

Issue Frequency
Sexual health
Birth control/contraception 7
Pregnancy 6
STDs 5
Sexual abuse 2
Debunking myths 1
Safe sex 1
Human development
Sexual orientation 3
Gender Identity 2
Sexuality 1
Appropriate dressing 1
Healthy masculinity 1
Menstruation 1
Same-sex relationships 1
Identity and labels 1
Relationships
Relationships 9
Prom 1
Personal skills
Whether to have sex 2
Age of consent 1
Interactions between sexes 1
Social media 1
Abortion 1
Sexual reputation 1
Values 1
Young age at sexual debut 1
Sexual behavior
Who is having sex 1
Sexual behavior 1
Appropriate touch 1

So, yeah, teens have sex issues. Not a surprise. Right? We all do…. sex, relationships, more. Often much more. Youth development professionals encounter these issues. Sometimes youth approach them. Sometimes they have to actively approach youth when they perceive an issue. Either way, they have to be prepared to do so effectively, efficiently, and appropriately. But are they prepared? Well, that’s a story for a different time, but, hint: No, not really…which is a bummer, because its a great opportunity to improve sexual health, help youth struggling with sexuality issues, and to be, well, a mighty resource in the lives of many youth who simply do not have good resources.

Where do I get a copy?

You can access the fulltext online at the American Journal of Sexuality Education, or by requesting a copy from the researchers.

People with speech bubbles

Relationships, abuse, orientation, those are some of the issues youth development professionals encounter in their work at youth-serving community-based organizations. And, sex, of course.

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