Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Parental Attitudes and Practice of Sex Education of Children in Nigeria

Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Parental Attitudes and Practice of Sex Education of Children in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

Sex education (SE) has been defined as the provision of straightforward and elemental information about the anatomy, physiology and psychology of sex, and relating this to practical issues that normally affect adolescents, like contraception, abortion and STI (1).

Sex education for children is rarely done openly in almost every culture, especially in Africa and other conservative countries like China and India. Discussions of sex and related topics are often discouraged and sometimes considered taboo because of the common belief that to inform children about sex is to encourage sexual activity or promiscuity. The parents not only withhold vital information about sexuality and reproduction from their children, they also impart messages of danger, fear and shame (2-5). This finding has been corroborated by earlier studies done in Nigeria, where many parents were reported not to support sex education mainly for fear that children may want to indulge in sex after receiving sex education and also because of the belief that sex education is for adults (6-8). Another factor may be the relative inexperience of some of these parents since they did not discuss such issues with their own parents. These parents are therefore incapacitated when it comes to the skills and confidence to play a direct role in these matters (9,10).

On the other hand, children avoid talking to their parents about sexual matters for fear that showing a curiosity about sex would arouse unnecessary suspicion about their behaviour. Most young people however learn about sex and related topics from books, magazines, films, television programmes, internet and peer groups (11,12) resulting in unbalanced information often with poor quality. Studies done among adolescents to assess their knowledge about sexuality and reproductive issues have consistently shown relatively poor knowledge (2,3,3,13). This misinformation puts them at risk of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, unplanned pregnancy, unsafe abortion and its related complications (13). A study done among adolescents in Transkei, South Africa revealed that about threequarters of the adolescents interviewed were already sexually active, with poor reproductive knowledge, poor contraceptive use and a third of the sexually active girls have been pregnant at least once (14). Another study in Mwanza, Tanzania among primary and secondary school pupils above 12 years of age revealed that 80% of primary school boys and 68% of primary school girls were already sexually active. Fourteen per cent of these girls had already been pregnant and over half of these pregnancies ended in illegally induced abortions (15).

The incidence of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and abortions with attending complications among adolescents in Nigeria is equally disturbing. An estimated 610 000 unsafe abortions a year are carried out in Nigeria, and about half of the 20 000 women who die from the complications of unsafe abortion are adolescents. About a million births a year in Nigeria are to teenage mothers, and abortion complications are responsible for 72% of all deaths among teenagers below the age of 19 years (16).

Even though some parents oppose sex education for fear that it might unduly arouse the interest of innocent children which might result in promiscuity, research finding seems to reveal otherwise. Several studies have shown that sex education can help delay the age of first intercourse, encourage correct and consistent use of contraception and STI protection measures (5,17-19). The HIV/AIDS pandemic and the increasing prevalence among adolescents because of their risky sexual behaviour have also given a sense of urgency to the topic of sex education.

This study therefore, examined the knowledge, attitude and practice of sex education of children among parents resident in Osogbo Local Government Area of Osun state, Nigeria with a view to determining the deterrents to effective sex education by parents and suggesting strategies to improve the situation. …

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