Utilizing the SIECUS Guidelines to Assess Sexuality Education in One State: Content Scope and Importance
Moore, Michele Johnson, Rienzo, Barbara A., Journal of School Health
Comprehensive sexuality education is advocated as the most effective means of promoting sexual health for youth.[1,2] These programs include a broad range of sexuality topics taught throughout the school years as a part of comprehensive health education which is skill-based and targets the three learning domains: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. Because families, peers, schools, and messages from the larger society influence sexual behavior, comprehensive programs should also involve the community.[1-3]
Many believe the goal of sexuality education for high school students should be to decrease the negative consequences of sexual behavior. However, some professionals note that it is a mistake to promise reduction of problems as a result of sexuality education. These professionals assert that promoting sexual health and a positive view of sexuality are also important.[2,4] They suggest that the goal of sexuality education is to prepare individuals for sexual development, increase comfort and positive attitudes, and develop relevant skills.[1,2,4] Nonetheless, many sexuality curricula and research efforts focus exclusively on delaying sexual behavior, and preventing unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Consequently, other program goals such as improving communication or relationship skills are often not measured. If promoting sexual health is to be the primary goal of sexuality education,[1,2,4] programs must include not only the negative consequences of sexual behavior, but content that cultivates a positive view of sexuality as well.
In 1991, a nationally representative task force of leading health, education, and sexuality professionals developed the SIECUS Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten - 12th Grade (Guidelines). The Guidelines were designed as a framework to assist local communities in designing new curricula or assessing existing programs. They are the first national model for -- and the most widely recognized and implemented framework for -- comprehensive sexuality education in the United States. They incorporate four developmental levels for early elementary through high school. Thirty-six topics are addressed within six main concepts -- human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture -- that include both a positive focus on sexual health and the prevention of untoward consequences of sexual behavior (Table 1). Each topic is described by a subconcept and an outline of important content appropriate for the different age groups (called developmental messages).
Key Concepts and Topics in Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Key Concept 1: Human Development Reproductive anatomy and physiology Reproduction Puberty Body Image Sexual identity and orientation Key Concept 2: Relationships Families Friendship Love Dating Marriage and lifetime commitments Parenting Key Concept 3: Personal Skills Values Decision-making Communication Assertiveness Negotiation Finding help Key Concept 4: Sexual Behavior Sexuality thoughout life Masturbation Shared sexual behavior Abstinence Human sexual response Fantasy Sexual dysfunction Key Concept 5: Sexual Health Contraception Abortion STDs and HIV infection Sexual abuse Reproductive health Key Concept 6: Society and Culture Sexuality and society Gender roles Sexuality and the law Sexuality and religion Diversity Sexuality and the arts Sexuality and the media
Source: National Guidelines Task Force, 1996
Several studies have assessed the content of school-based sexuality education, albeit the content assessed differed in each study.[6-11] A few studies have utilized the Guidelines to assess the comprehensiveness of sexuality education curricula or guidelines for school-aged youth.[12-14] Only one state-level study used the SIECUS Guidelines to assess the comprehensiveness of sexuality education topics taught in schools. …