AN ECOLOGICAL EXPLORATION OF YOUTH PERCEPTIONS OF SEXUALITY EDUCATION NEEDS
ABSTRACT AN ECOLOGICAL EXPLORATION OF YOUTH PERCEPTIONS OF SEXUALITY EDUCATION NEEDS In recent years, there has been a significant decline in teen pregnancy rates in the United States, but the decline is substantial among ethnicities other than African-Americans, suggesting a need for better understanding of the sexual health education needs specific to African-American youth. The purpose of this investigation was to extend the limited existing knowledge of adolescents’ perceived sexual health education needs as well as explore the impact of perceptions of friends’ sexual history on stated needs by drawing upon the Ecological Systems Theory (EST). This quantitative study focused on the impact of social and environmental factors associated with preferences of sexual health information of youth. The cross-sectional quantitative study utilized a voluntary, self-report survey methodology by incorporating the Family Life Sex Education Goal Questionnaire (FLSE-GQ II). The first hypothesis of this study suggested that, based on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, the community where study participants reside impacts their perceptions of their need for sexual health information. The participants responded as predicted with an endorsement of all topics within the survey, demonstrating support of a comprehensive approach to school-based sexuality education. These results are reflective of the high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the community. The Ecological Systems Theory was applied in the second hypothesis to assess the extent to which perceived sexual behaviors of peers influence adolescents’ support of sexuality education content. With respect to furthering our understanding of the extent to which perceptions of peers influence adolescent perceptions of their sexuality education needs, this study demonstrates that perceptions of the sexual history of peers does not have substantial influence on support of sexual health content. To advance the capacity of prevention efforts to address the disproportionate rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among African-American youth, future school-based sexual health interventions could benefit from a collaborative approach that provides youth with the opportunity to voice their opinions on the best content to be included in discussions. This can be achieved by first replicating studies such as the current study then incorporating a series of qualitative approaches that can inform later collaborative efforts.