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Paediatr Child Health. 2008 Jan;13(1):25-30.

Sex and sexual health: A survey of Canadian youth and mothers.

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Adolescent Medicine Division, Sainte-Justine UHC, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec.



Apparent changes in adolescent sexual behaviours have led to debate in recent years. A survey on adolescent sexuality was designed to determine mainstream Canadian adolescents' current knowledge and sources of sexual health information, to identify their needs, and to understand the perceptions and the role of parents in sexual health education.


In October 2005, on-line interviews were conducted by Ipsos Reid (Ipsos Canada) with 1171 Canadian teenagers (14 to 17 years of age) and 1139 mothers of teenagers.


Twenty-seven per cent of teens were sexually active at a mean age of 15 years, with an average of 2.5 lifetime partners, and had been in their current relationship for longer than eight months. The last time that they had had sex, 76% had used a condom. Teens and mothers overestimated the percentages of teens sexually active at any age. Most valuable sources of information were school, parents, friends and doctors. Sixty-nine per cent of teens could not find the information that they were looking for, and 62% reported obstacles in getting information. Teens lacked knowledge about sexually transmitted infections and their consequences. Seventy-five per cent of mothers believed that their teenagers' friends were significant role models when it came to sexuality, and 50% mentioned entertainment celebrities at par with them. However, 45% of teenagers regarded their parents as their role models, far ahead of friends (32%) and entertainment celebrities (15%). Despite saying that they had positive relationships with their mothers, 38% of teens had not discussed sexuality with them. Most teens trusted the information given by health professionals (94%) and believed that it was their role to provide sexual health information.


Most adolescents are responsible when it comes to sexuality, but there are still areas of concern. Adolescents identify barriers to getting information and lack knowledge about sexually transmitted infections. Parents should feel more comfortable when it comes to discussing sexuality, especially the more value-based issues. Health care professionals and teachers have a role to play, and should ensure that teens are getting correct information. It is important to have diverse sources of information. All teens are not ready at the same time to receive the information; thus, it should be repeated. Governments, health, education and public health authorities have an essential role to play to make sexual health information accurate, accessible, inclusive and salient to the reality of Canadian adolescents.

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