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Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Feb;111(2 Pt 1):256-66. doi: 10.1097/

What schools teach our patients about sex: content, quality, and influences on sex education.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.



To identify predictors of comprehensive sex education in public schools.


Using a three-stage design, 335 sex education teachers from a probability sample of 201 schools in 112 Illinois school districts were surveyed regarding the 2003-2004 school year. Coverage of at least all of the following topics constituted "comprehensiveness": abstinence, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and contraception. A logistic regression model identified predictors of comprehensiveness.


Representing 91.3% of sampled schools, the teacher survey response rate was 62.4%. The most frequently taught topics included HIV/AIDS (97%), STDs (96%), and abstinence-until-marriage (89%). The least frequently taught topics were emergency contraception (31%), sexual orientation (33%), condom (34%) and other contraceptive (37%) use, and abortion (39%). Abstinence-only curricula were used by 74% of teachers, but 33% of these teachers supplemented with "other" curricula. Overall, two thirds met comprehensiveness criteria based on topics taught. Curricular material availability was most commonly cited as having a "great deal" of influence on topics taught. Thirty percent had no training in sex education; training was the only significant predictor of providing comprehensive sex education in multivariable analysis.


Illinois public school-based sex education emphasizes abstinence and STDs and is heavily influenced by the available curricular materials. Nearly one in three sex education teachers were not trained. Obstetrician-gynecologists caring for adolescents may need to fill gaps in adolescent knowledge and skills due to deficits in content, quality, and teacher training in sex education.



[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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