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FACT: 94 percent of Connecticut residents agree that, "In the era of AIDS, young people need information and skills from sex education to protect their health and lives."
FACT: 61 percent of U.S. high school seniors have had sex.
FACT: 68 percent of Connecticut high school seniors have had sex.
FACT: 7,420 teenage women in Connecticut experienced pregnancy in 2000.
FACT: Connecticut does not require schools to provide sex education.
What Works—Comprehensive Sex Education or Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage?
FACT: Thirty years of research shows that youth who receive comprehensive sex education—including information on abstinence and contraception—are more likely to delay initiating sex and to use protection when they do initiate sex than youth who receive abstinence-only programs.
FACT: Numerous research studies have shown that sex education that includes information about both abstinence and contraception does NOT send a mixed message, nor does it lead to earlier or increased sexual intercourse.
DESPITE THE RESEARCH, federal and state governments steadily increased funding for abstinenceonly-
until-marriage programs that tell young people that sex outside of marriage is "likely to have harmful
psychological and physical effects." These programs also relate only the failure rates (often exaggerated)
of condoms and other forms of contraception. To date, almost one billion dollars has been spent on such programs, none of which has been shown to be effective in preventing sexual risk behaviors. Research shows that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are far less effective than comprehensive sex education.
What the Survey Found
What Should Be Taught?
Connecticut adults overwhelmingly support comprehensive sex education in Connecticut's schools—education that provides information about both abstinence and contraception, including condoms for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially when it comes to preventing HIV and AIDS.
- 94 percent of adults agree that, "In the era of AIDS, young people need information and skills from sex education to protect their health and lives."
- 94 percent of Catholics and 93 percent of all adults agree that, "Whether or not young people are sexually active, they should receive sex education so they have the information to make responsible choices."
- 75 percent of all adults believe schools should teach about both abstinence and contraception.
Does Information About Abstinence and Contraception Send a "Mixed Message"?
Connecticut adults' opinions agree with the facts about sex education, as shown by research.
- 83 percent reject the idea that "sex education only encourages young people to have sex."
- 73 percent reject the idea that "giving young people information about both abstinence and birth control in schools sends a mixed message and encourages young people to have intercourse."
When Should Sex Education Be Taught?
Most adults believe that students should receive sex education in junior and senior high school.
- 91 percent of all adults support youth receiving sex education during high school.
- 79 percent of all adults support youth receiving sex education during junior high school.
Should Sexually Active Teens Have Access to Sexual Health Services?
Most Connecticut adults believe school personnel should make condoms and other birth control available to sexually active youth. They also look to school nurses and guidance counselors to refer sexually active youth to STI and/or family planning clinics.
- 84 percent of Hispanic adults and 79 percent of all adults support school nurses and guidance counselors referring sexually active youth to STI clinics.
- 69 percent of adults support school nurses and guidance counselors referring sexually active youth to family planning clinics.
- 79 percent of African American adults, 67 percent of Hispanic adults, and 60 percent of all adults support school personnel making condoms and other birth control accessible to sexually active youth.
Whose Opinions About Sex Education Matter the Most to Connecticut Adults?
Connecticut residents value most highly the opinions of their own teenage children, if they have any, and of young people in general. Adults also value the opinions of school nurses and parent organizations.
- 79 percent of parents of teens say the opinions of their own children are very important to them.
- 58 percent of all adults say the opinions of youth are very important to them.
- 56 percent of all adults say the opinions of school nurses very important to them.
- 50 percent of all adults say the opinions of parent organizations are very important to them.
Should Government Funding Support Abstinence-Only?
Most Connecticut residents oppose public funding of abstinence-only programs. Many say they would be likely to take action if they discovered that their child's school prohibits information about condoms and birth control.
- 59 percent oppose current policy that funds teaching only abstinence and that prohibits any information about condoms and birth control to prevent pregnancy and/or disease.
- 77 percent of African Americans, 62 percent of whites, and 58 percent of Hispanics say they would be likely to take action to support a change in school policies if they discover that their child's school prohibits information about condoms and birth control.
Demographics of Survey Respondents—Among all survey respondents, 34 percent were parents of children under age 13; 19 percent were parents of children ages 13 to 18. Among respondents, 52 percent were ages 18 through 44. Nearly 75 percent of respondents were white; 11 percent, African American; 10 percent, Hispanic; and four percent, other. Forty-three percent of respondents were Catholic; 24 percent, Protestant; two percent Jewish; 17 percent, other; and 12 percent, of no religious preference. Nearly 32 percent were Democrats; 26 percent, Republicans; and 31 percent, independents.
Fifty-three percent of respondents were female. Respondents who indicated their income were equally distributed among categories: about 29 percent each reported an annual income of $40,000 or less; $40,000 to $80,000; and over $80,000.
The Survey—APCO Insight, a public opinion research fi rm located in Washington, DC, conducted a survey of Connecticut residents on behalf of Advocates for Youth. The survey, measuring attitudes towards sex education, solicited the opinions of 699 randomly chosen adults across the state, including over-sampling of 100 adults each in Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury, and New Haven. Interviews, conducted by telephone, occurred between December 9 and December 16, 2003. The margin of error is ±3.8 percent. The margin of error is larger for over-samples.
Assessing the State of Sex Education in Connecticut's Schools—Advocates for Youth and The Parisky Group in Hartford worked in partnership with parents throughout Connecticut to assess the state of sex education in their children's schools. That project, this separate survey, and this document were generously supported by a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Advocates for Youth
Advocates for Youth is dedicated to creating programs and advocating for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Advocates provides information, training, and strategic assistance to youth serving organizations, policy makers, youth activists, and the media in the United States and developing countries.
The Parisky Group
The Parisky Group provides a broad range of services to address social, community development, and public policy issues. Founded in 1983, The Parisky Group assists business, government, and nonprofi t clients in tackling challenging problems and projects, fi nding both short- and long-term solutions to complex issues.
- APCO Insight & Advocates for Youth. Connecticut Sexuality Education Survey: Survey among Connecticut Residents. Washington, DC: Authors, January, 2004.
- National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Across America: State Data Highlights. Washington, DC: Author, 2004. (accessed April 27, 2004)
- National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Across America: Number of Teen Pregnancies. Washington, DC: Author, 2002. (accessed April 27, 2004)
- Connecticut State. Connecticut 2003 Statutes: Title 10, Education and Culture. (accessed April 16, 2004)
- NARAL & NARAL Foundation. Who Decides? A State-by-State Review of Abortion and Reproductive Rights. 10th edition. Washington, DC: Authors, 2001.
- Baldo M, Aggleton P, Slutkin G. Does Sex Education Lead to Earlier or Increased Sexual Activity in Youth? Presented at the IXth International Conference on AIDS, Berlin, June 1993. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1993.
- Alford S et al. Science and Success: Sex Education and Other Programs that Work to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, HIV & Sexually Transmitted Infections. Washington, DC: Advocates for Youth, 2003.
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