A Review of Psychological Theories That Underline Sex Education


Young people are expected to grow up to become reputable individuals. This can change if they fail to take control of their sexuality. The community, parents, and young people are involved in sex education. However the learning institutions have been given the bigger role of sex education since it can be incorporated into the teaching curriculum. Society has changed and a lot of material sex is available thus young people become exposed very early in life Waksler (1991)

According to Michael (2005) sex education began to teach in school as an initiative to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Before the introduction, students were left to remain unaware and thus the education system did not teach sex education. Sex education began as a program on hygiene and was later incorporated in the curriculum as sex education. The content of what is taught has changed from hygiene studies to more a comprehensive curriculum that covers so many aspects about sex (p. 275).

This essay will use the sex education theory to discuss sex education. The theories include; Symbolic interactionism theory, Phenomenology and Feminism. It will also discuss the benefits and challenges of sex eduaction as well as moral issues that surround sex education.

Definition of Sex education

AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011) defines sex education as “the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy”. Sex education’s major objective is to inform and help guide the youth to make informed choices in their lives. Informed youths take necessary measures to avoid sexual manipulation, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV virus. When their right to information is honored then the youths can grow up and have enjoyable sexual lives.

Sex education other objectives help the young generation to have healthy relationships as they may choose to abstain or practice responsible sexual behavior. The outcome of sex education is a safe generation that is responsible for own lives and safety from diseases (Forrest, Strange, Oakley, and the RIPPLE team, p. 200).

Symbolic interactionism theory

Plunkett (2010, p 1) says that Symbolic interactionism theory is a theory that views society as being made up of interacting individuals. People give meaning to symbols that they use. Symbols are informed of spoken words, behaviors and the roles they play in society. The people living in the society are affected by the people surrounding them.

Mueller et al (2008, 80) indicate that sex education reflects the use of symbolic theory because young people are affected by what society says and does. The beliefs that different cultures hold dictate their behavior. On the other hand individual value and attitude affect the choices an individual make concerning his life (Layder 1997).


According to Orleans (2010, p. 1) phenomenology is a theory that views an individual action as products of his understanding about the social world they live in. this theory emphasize that human beings practice what they have been socialized. Their conscious acts are as a result of their understanding about the real world and what they already know. This theory has been used in the practice of sex education as young people are believed to do what they have been exposed to.


Feminism is a theory that is supportive of women to participate in the, socio- economic, political environment. Feminist believe that both men and women are equal and should be given equal opportunities. Feminism believes gender roles are constructed and that they can be deconstructed. This theory is used in sex education to encourage female students to take advantage of opportunities. Female students are perhaps encouraged to take on male dominated careers like engineering (Jung, Hayek, Rand, Farrell, Paglia & Sommers, 2010, p. 1).

Introducing sex education to children

Children should be taught about sex before the onset of puberty according to AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011). The educator should find out what the child already knows and begin by correcting the inaccurate information. Then t can introduce other aspects about sex systematically considering the age and the level of understanding. In some cases sex education can be introduced later due to cultural beliefs and religious practices in which they belong (Kirbyet al 1994, p.328). Sex education can be introduced when the young people begin to ask questions about sex. The educator can answer their questions and form a good relationship with them that will encourage future dialogues.

What skills to teach

Communication is important and young people must use skills to express themselves in the right way as Wilson (1999) mentions. In addition, they must listen to authorities and use the information given to them to arrive at decisions. Learning how to negotiate in a relationship is an important skill. Whenever they are in difficulties, the students must learn to ask for help from informed mature individuals. Another skill they must learn is resisting influence from peers (p 60).

Skills to discern moral and immoral are important. Morals are largely defined by ones individual back ground based on religion and culture. There are morals that apply to most societies while others are acceptable within specific communities. Examples include the use of birth control methods where in some communities, the family planning methods are discouraged (Cai, Hong, & Shi, 2008).


Young people need to be assisted to form the right beliefs concerning sex. They are exposed to information which is contradicting. Most often, they are discouraged from having sex to prevent pregnancies and contracting diseases. On the other hand, they may encounter programs on the media that argue that sex is healthy. To be able to form own belief, they need guidance that will make them identify when they are likely to encounter undesirable dangers in sex and when sex is enjoyable and beneficial.

Students form beliefs from what they hear and see. Since they are frequently keen to note any information concerning sex, they absorb information that they receive. The media is effective in making young people form attitudes concerning sex. The programs are designed for the youths glorify sex. Beautiful and handsome people are portrayed as sexy (Silverman, 1998).

People who are involved in sex education have their own attitudes and values Kirby et al (1991, p. 260). When teaching they should avoid being biased and give details and facts as they are concerning sex. This means that if the educator believes in abstinence, they should not fail to give information about safe sex.

AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011) admits that efforts that are encourage abstinence have been resisted by many youths and thus it is important to recognize that giving information will be helpful. When given sex education, the youths can choose whether to abstain or not.


Information about sex is gained from publication, programs and from the internet. Others receive information from their families and learning institutions. This information is then shared among peers. The information may be unreliable and other times the information is correct. AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011) suggest that se education should capture what the young people already know and correct the inaccurate information that they may have encountered. For instance, the media has from time to time featured programs that give hope that there could be a cure for HIV and AIDS. The young people may lack knowledge to understand that in reality a cure has not been identified yet (Kirby 2001).

After the introduction of sex education, the educators should sustain the training as the children grow up. This can be achieved by introducing and developing on topics as they grow up. Knowledge is cumulative and they grow up with understanding as they learn new things.

Often, parents and guardians are not quick to teaching young people about their sexuality at a very tender age for fear that they may become adventurers. On the contrary, AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011) argues that the sexual activities reduced among those who have undergone an intensive sex education. They further say that among those who choose to be sexually active, a majority use condom and other birth control methods.

Parents can establish a healthy relationship with their own children to create an avenue for discussion whenever their children have questions. They can provide facts concerning sex from time to time (Monbiot, 2004). Parents are the closest people who can transmit cultural values effectively as they are seen to be source of authority by their children. The parent as an educator should observe societal changes. When they move to another society, the parent can assist the young people to adapt to the new environment by giving them support (Swan 2003).

Parents should not allow their children to be ignorant; they should become the source of information on sex education. They avail themselves at home and spend time with the children. During this time the parent and guardian can make face to face conversation and talk about values and believes on sex. They can share their experiences and what they know about sex. Whenever they ask questions, they can be answered truthfully. There are times the parent will postpone a question, they should not take too long before answering. Parents can make it a routine to initiate the sex education as children may not be willing. This is because they fear being rebuked and being punished if they offended the parent.

Teachers in school are effective sex educators. They are neutral and understand different societies with different values concerning sex. Teachers who send children with home work assist in initiating the dialogue about sex between the parent and then student. The teacher can be effective in correcting deceiving notions that the media usually uses (Truan 1993 p. 490).

Young people can be effective sex educators among themselves. The peer groups can be used to initiate discussions with the help of an educator. The peers can be trained and be given materials to read. They use the knowledge to teach and correct other peers who may be engaging in risky sexual behaviors. While developing the curriculum, the young people will help identify area s that needs attention. When the young people are involved, they are likely to practice what they are taught is morally correct and what will benefit them.

There are three key areas of sex education that the AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011) believes that they must be covered in a successful sex education:

Human development

The sex educators must provide a curriculum that explains the human development on sexuality. It should capture the reproduction where the students must be able to understand the process. Neither girls nor boys should be exempted from learning the opposite sex reproduction. Besides learning the physical reproduction, they should be educated on emotional changes that occur. They should be educated on different stages that an individual undergoes in a life time while putting emphasis on the puberty stage where majority belong. The sexual development teaching must cover conception as well as explain the gestation period.

The sexually transmitted diseases information can be given in detail. The content can include the modes of transition, signs and symptoms and treatment. Information on Prevention of the diseases must be revealed as well as hygienic practices. Moreover, abortion should be discussed extensively. The types and consequences of each type must be discussed (Petersen 1986, 40).

Birth control methods

Young people can be taught on different birth control methods that exist. They should include their advantages and disadvantages. Information on how to acquire them and how to use them can be given. Furthermore, Schaalma, Kok and Peter (1993) argue that young people can be advised on the best methods that suit their age and be left to decide for themselves (p. 259).


Young people should be given information about types of relationships. If possible they can be given examples so that they can be able to relate with the examples. The nature of love, marriage and sex can be given reviewed for the youths to understand. Depending on cultural and religious background, students can learn what their community practices and how it affects them.

Sex education in teaching institutions

The young people spend a lot of time in schools and thus the school should develop a program that will provide competent sex education that will reduce the problems that have been encountered. The schools can teach young people to avoid situations that will lead to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and poor relationships (DiCenso 2003).

The learning institutions can also use available information on research that contributes to the study of sex education. These studies may provide information concerning what promotes sexual behavior among the students. They can also apply recommendations made on the studies (Stephenson, et al., 2004, p. 340).

The learning institutions can make a routine to provide sex education on regular basis. Whenever incidents happen, they may also consider taking the initiative to give relevant information. For instance, increases venereal disease among students may call for more information on sexually transmitted diseases and encourage them to use protection.

Information about sexuality can be assimilated within the syllabus. This will ensure that all information about sex is covered adequately and that all undergo such teachings. The school can use diagram on notice board to encourage safe sex and give information about venereal diseases. Moreover, the school can embrace other methods of disseminating information like using electronic media, inviting guests and conversation.

Support for students who need help can be given at school. A counseling centre for students can be established. Students can be encouraged to use the facility. Furthermore, the institute can engage in research activities to understand the student’s sexuality and develop programs that will benefit the society.

Benefits of sex education

Sex education reduces the number of problems associated with risky sexual behaviors. AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011) in their research discovered that there were fewer cases of pregnancies. This was attributed to the fact that students had the information about the correct use of birth control methods. Consequently, there were fewer abortion cases experienced. This was remarkable as a number of students would suffer from infections, reproductive complications or lose their lives while procuring an abortion.

Sex education was reported to have caused some students to abstain. As a result, they did not expose themselves to get sexually transmitted diseases. Those who did choose to have sex use protection and thus the number of students who sought for treatment of infection was reduced AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011).

Sex education enable educators to know what the young people know about sex. As result, they become informed on the best form of intervention in different situation. Sex education also helps in correcting stereotypes and wrong beliefs that are held.

Compound theory

Due to the exposure about sex in the contemporary world, children have knowledge about sex when young and start experimenting when young. Besides the exposure, Conger (2004, Para 1) reveals that the adoption of responsible sex as opposed to abstinence is appropriate. According to him children who regularly talk about sex with parents make informed choices. They are aware of the consequences they are likely to encounter when they engage in unsafe sex.

Parents get worried when children begin to be sexually active in early teens. These children are not fully developed into adults and should give themselves enough time to mature. At this early stage children should be encouraged to abstain (Conger 2004, Para 7)

Abstinence is the most effective way of fighting against sexually transmitted diseases. Parents and teachers who advocate for safe sex fail to consider that the condom can only protect if used correctly. At times it fails when it breaks. Furthermore, it must be used every time. They should also make them know that it only reduces the chances.

Children need to be told that although the condom has been designed to protect people from contracting the sexual transmitted diseases, they can be contracted HIV virus can pass through the pores. For this reason one can use a condom and still get infected although chances are minimal. Thus abstinence will remain the best practice.

Some students will choose to remain sexually active despite being taught on the dangers of unsafe sex. It may be necessary to teach them sex education and engage in discussions where they can ask questions and receive guidance. These young adults need assistance on birth control methods and can be helped to manage their reproductive rights (Trippe 1994, p. 145).

Human sexuality

Psychology help.com (1999, p. 1) argues that the sex word sex has different meaning when it comes to boys and girls. Girls see sex as an activity that needs commitment and seriousness while boys take sex as a game that involves maximum enjoyment. For this reason Bandura (1992) says that they women rarely enjoy sex. The situation is changing and most and some women are recognizing that could also enjoy sex. Additionally women are known to be more sensitive in considering the outcomes of sexual behavior. Men hardly consider the consequences and should therefore learn to be responsible. In a research, Anderson (2010, p. 90) found out that Students learn much about human sexuality from peers especially in school. Due to this reason the curriculum must incorporate in the curriculum human sexuality studies to abolish wrong believes.

The role of gender

Students learn gender roles as they relate at school as Wight and Abraham (2000, p. 30) point out. The peer groups mould their beliefs and perceptions. The members of a peer group want to belong to the same peer group prescribe to the certain behaviors depending on their gender.

Wight, Abraham, Scott, Raab, & Hart (1996, p. 1) argue that the sex education should incorporate the knowledge and orientation of students, what they anticipate to hear as well as the existing relationship among the students. The trainers understanding and time must be considered when delivering the sex education.

Stregowski (2011, p. 15) observes that Christians advocate for total abstinence on sex among the unmarried. Most public education institutes that are secular do not subscribe to any religion and thus Christians in those schools do not follow the teachings.


Eakman (2002 p. 29) believes that the education system is corrupting the minds of innocent children on morality. At a very tender age children in pre- school are taught the body parts that include indicating the female and male organs. Consequently, these children begin to experiment and are likely to be lured by the homosexuals. The church leadership themselves are not the best examples for morals. Some have been accused of sodomizing and participating in homosexuality.

The fact that the there exist other families than the traditional family is deceiving to the young generation. At school they are taught that homosexual families are families just like the traditional family that consist of a man and his wife (Eakman 2002 p. 79). Furthermore parents rarely pay attention to lessons that their children take at school. Schaalma et al (2004, p. 268) argue that Parents leave the children to do their home work on their own without assistance. Hardly ever do they create time from their busy schedule to discuss about sex.

On the other hand the learning institutions send children home with home work that is not explicit in showing body parts. Thus the children are introduced to pornographic materials at school and parents do not know it (Ingham, and Van Zessen, 1997).


The findings of a study conducted by Stubbs (2010) reveal that the society plays a major role in sex education. The members of a society fail to protect the young and naïve generation from early exposure to sex.

In addition, sex education is challenged by lack of training. Most parents do not know how to educate their children on sex. Some are shy to discuss sex and assume that they will be taught at school. Other times, parents reefer children to close family members like aunts to talk to their children Stubbs (2010). These close family members are equally unprepared. Teachers at school have limited training on sex education. Those with training provide useful information and guide the students in making informed decisions. The curriculum teacher’s use educates children that there are many types of family units to mean that homosexual families are accepted.

The young people are at risk of believing inaccurate information about sex as identified by the AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011). Stereotypes are commonly discussed among students and can cause them to hurt themselves. Students may engage in to fit in a peer group after listening to the wrong beliefs. The media magnifies beauty and the young people may engage in modifying self image to look like what the media implies. The media for instance often implies beauty to mean sexy.


Comprehensive sex education provides a long list of opinions for the young people to choose from. AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011) emphasize that the young people adequately informed weigh the different ideas that are demonstrated and make choices that they perceive to be safe for them. They are prepared to make decisions that will enable them have health relationships in the future.

Joannides (2010, Para 3) indicates that the sex education as given to students in high school and in the sixth grade place emphasis on teaching abstinence as opposed to the study of biology. This is because most of the students are exposed to sex. These students watch pornographic movies more often than thought. Measures taken to restrict this behavior include controlling the arrangement in institutions, postponing intimate relationships, abstaining from pornographic messages and honoring one self.

Since a majority of students are already exposed to sex Joannides (2010, Para 7) suggest that they should be asked to discuss matters to do with the sex with the partner. Depending on their orientation, they will have different perceptions about sex hence a dialogue will make them set boundaries and define their kind of relationship.

Joannides (2010, Para 8) recommends that the coupling students use decent words to define sexual organs. They should avoid using indecent words that are common in the use of slang. Additionally, they may open up and discuss what stimulates the other and whenever it is offensive.

Sex education when effectively administered make the student be able to agree and also disagree out of making the right choice as Joannides (2010, Para 9) points out. Students must learn to give a negative answer firmly without being rude. Whenever they agree, they should do so while respecting self. The other person must understand why they are given a certain answer and should not make it hard for the person who disagrees with what they want. In their relationship they should state when they mean ‘no’ and when they mean ‘yes’. Furthermore, Joannides (2010, Para 11) notes that they should recognize that there are times when someone in a relationship wants to agree and at the same time wants to disagree about something.

Girls should not be made to fell embarrassed about the menstruation. Although the period she is menstruating should remain known to her alone, when she exposes her sanitary towels or tampons she should not feel embarrassed. Education on menstruation is not only for female students, male students must be encouraged to attend such classes (Wight, Abraham and Scott 1998, p. 320),

Students need to be educated on other birth control methods as indicated by Joannides (2010, Para 13). Besides being encouraged to use a condom, they must know that there are more effective birth control methods other than a condom. Furthermore, it should be emphasized that abstinence is the most effective method of preventing Sexually transmitted diseases. In cases where a couple choose be intimate, then they should remain faithful to one partner and always use protection.


Sex education theories include Symbolic interactionism theory, Phenomenology theory and Feminism theory. Young people use the knowledge they have been socialized to make decisions. Sex education is administered by the parents, guardians, society learning institutions and the young people themselves. The must work together to influence the youths positively by encouraging what is moraly accepted.

Sex education is believed to improve sexual relationships and reduce problems that arise from risky sexual behaviors. Young people are encouraged to practice Abstinence. If they choose to remain sexually active then they should use the contraceptives and protection to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy AIDS & HIV information from AVERT.org (2011).

Sex education should educate children about sexual development, birth control methods and good relationships. It should also give information about abortion and give real life examples. This information will give the young people adequate ideas that will assist them make the right choices in life. Research can be done on regular basis so that the youths can be helped in their unique situations.


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