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Parental discourses in sexual education

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Knox College

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  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Analysis of Marsman and Herrold (1986)'s survey
  4. Controversial aspects of sex
  5. Ashcraft (2006)'s study on the discourse of readiness
  6. Analysis of the study by Afifi, Joseph, and Aldeis
  7. Analysis of Feldman and Rosenthal's 2000 study
  8. Research design
    1. Semi-structured interviews with junior/senior high school girls
    2. Lack of confidence among the students
    3. Interview of with the parents
    4. Awkwardness in the interviews
    5. Judgment
    6. Forssberg's intention
    7. The lines of questioning
    8. Openness of the answers
  9. Ashcraft's view
  10. Conclusion
  11. Final thoughts
  12. Appendix I: Parental interview questions
  13. Bibliography

Teen pregnancy is a pressing crisis throughout the world, the United States, and Knox County. A gap in expectations between which topics parents should address and which schools should address may be partially to blame; while most parents believe that they should be the loudest voice in their children's sexual education, many of them do not take on that role. Through semi-structured interviews with parents, their junior high-aged daughters, and an after-school group of junior high-aged girls, I attempt to identify how parents' conceptions of their responsibilities to and relationships with their daughters and their understanding of what the schools are doing combine with daughters' perceptions of these efforts and their parents' attitudes to make The Talk more or less successful.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2007, the number of teenagers bearing children in the United States rose for the first time in 14 years. In 2009, the Heartland Alliance Report calculated the teen birth rate at 42 births per 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 19, higher than the statewide average of 39.5 per thousand (Timmons, 2009). One reason for that may be the Bush administration's decision to provide federal funding only for sexual education programs that adhere to an abstinence-only curriculum, but I hypothesize that a gap between what schools are expected to teach and what parents consider themselves responsible to teach is also a factor.

[...] Marla Forssberg, contrary to Marsman and Herrold, worried not that the schools would tell her daughter too much, but that they couldn't tell her enough without going into the taboo topic of religious morality, which she called springboard of what's right and what's wrong.? She seemed to see herself as responsible for filling in what the schools left out, but did not have particular strategies in place to do that (where the Jacobys had the OWL program and the Montcalms had book-reading sessions, regular parent-initiated talks, and ?trickle-down? education from their older children). [...]

[...] What the Jacobys prioritize in sexual education is visible in their analysis of the OWL program: GRETA: They cover everything. I mean, they cover heterosexual, homosexual, um, bisexual, um, they cover traditional, oral, traditional meaning, I dunno, beast with two backs, I dunno how you want to say it.*laughs* Uh, oral. What else? I mean, like, everything. They cover everything. Though this definition of ?everything? is certainly wider than what one would find in a public school sexual education program, it still focuses exclusively on intercourse and the physicality of sex: no mention of relationships, where to find condoms, masturbation, or any of those tricky topics. [...]

[...] Here, the typical parental worry about STDs and pregnancy is expressed in the same sentence as how to decide when and if to have sex, and how to maintain a healthy relationship. Aldous follows with an example of himself and Dabney becoming highly involved in their children's (as yet hypothetical) sex lives in a way that shows that they aren't dreading the day their children become sexually active. The Montcalms exhibit the openness that each set of parents told me they had with their children, which leads into my next point. [...]

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