The effects of sex education on teenage pregnancy: A retrospective study

Carol B Sanjour, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between sex education and pregnancy behavior and outcome among black female teenagers of low SES. Key variables examined were accuracy of sex information, exposure to formal sex education, age at time of such exposure, and subjects' judgment of the quality and nature of their sex education schooling. The theoretical rationale of the study was premised on the assumption that teenage pregnancy behavior is governed in part by rational decision-making processes and in part by adolescents' cognitive and emotional developmental characteristics. To meet the objectives of the study, 60 black mothers of low SES between the ages of 20 and 30, assigned retrospectively to one of three groups, were administered a short form of the WAIS-R, the WRAT reading test, and an author-developed scale tapping their experiences with formal sex education. Group I comprised those pregnant as teenagers who carried to term; Group II voluntarily interrupted their teenage pregnancies with abortion; and Group III were sexually active but never pregnant as teenagers. The findings showed that avoidance of teenage childbirth was positively associated with amount of accurately recalled sex information. Availability of sex education in school, however, did not differentiate among the three groups in terms of pregnancy outcome. An unexpected finding was that age of exposure to formal sex education was associated with pregnancy avoidance, with never-pregnant teens taking sex education courses at a later age than did their pregnant or child-bearing counterparts. No relationship was found between most perceptions of the course and pregnancy outcome. These results were discussed in terms of the hypothesis that accurate sex knowledge leads to responsible decision-making about sexual behavior. Formal sex education, however, was not shown to be a particularly effective method of imparting such knowledge. Educators and others charged with devising sex education courses were cautioned to consider the possibility that amenability to formal sex education may be enhanced by attention to emotional and cognitive developmental factors in curriculum planning.

Subject Area

Health education

Recommended Citation

Sanjour, Carol B, "The effects of sex education on teenage pregnancy: A retrospective study" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8813584.