Research & Insights

We Can’t Be Tentative About Talking To Very Young Kids About Sex

If we want to prevent kids from becoming sexually activity too early, we have to get started a lot earlier communicating to them about sex.

In fact, researchers from Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health say we should start talking to kids about sex and their sexual development as early as age 10.

Authors Susan M. Igras, Rebecka Lundgren, Marjorie Macieira and Elaine Murphy write in Global Public Health: “Very young adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14 represent about half of the 1.2 billion adolescents aged 10–19 in the world today. In lower- and middle- income countries, where most unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths and sexually transmitted infections occur, investment in positive youth development to promote sexual and reproductive health is increasing. Most interventions, though, focus on older adolescents, overlooking very young adults. Since early adolescence marks a critical transition between childhood and older adolescence and adulthood, setting the stage for future sexual reproductive health and gendered attitudes and behaviors, targeted investment in very young adults is imperative to lay foundations for healthy future relationships and positive sexual and reproductive health.”

“At a time when sexuality and gender identities are emerging, younger adolescents may experiment with adult sexual behaviors,” the authors say. “But because of their cognitive developmental stage, (they) are unlikely to correctly assess risks and consequences.”

Communicating helpful information at an earlier age also is key to countering the misinformation that young kids get from “older siblings and radio, television and other media” about fertility (first menstruation and ejaculation), sex and sexuality.

“Ten is not too young to help girls and boys understand their bodies and the changes that are occurring. Ten is not too young to begin to move them from ignorance to knowledge,” says Rebecka Lundgren, senior author of the paper. “We need to reach 10 to 14 year olds to teach them about their bodies and support development of a healthy body image and a strong sense of self worth…Ten is not too young.”

Global Public Health, May 2014

Susan M. Igras and Rebecka Lundgren, Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University
Marjorie Macieira, Macieira Consulting
Elaine Murphy, Population Reference Bureau

Posted: August 14, 2014
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