Teens turn to a friend for lessons in love

18th February 2000 at 00:00
FRIENDS and the media continue to be more important sources of information about

sex for Scottish teenagers than teachers, Edinburgh University researchers have confirmed.

Just 1.4 per cent of 15-year-olds say their teacher is the easiest person to talk to about sex and personal issues. More than 75 per cent would talk to friends first and 14 per cent to parents.

The tenor of the Section 28 debate suggests that schools and local authorities have the most significant roles in imparting views and knowledge but the authoritative Health Behaviours of Scottish Schoolchildren study indicates otherwise.

Schools, however, are doing a much better job with sex education, especially for boys, than they did 10 years ago, according to the evidence.

Thirty-two per cent of 15-year-olds say friends are the most important source of information, 27.7 per cent cite the media and 24.4 per cent suggest it is their school. Only just over one in 10 admit parents are.

The study, carried out by the research unit in health and behavioural change at Edinburgh University, has tracked lifestyle changes three times in the past decade. More tha 1,700 fourth-year pupils in a random 171 schools took part in the latest survey in 1998.

One of the most notable findings is that almost a third of boys taking part in the survey (31 per cent) say school is now the most vital information source on sexual matters, in contrast with the position in 1990 when 21.5 per cent thought it was. Girls still prefer their pals and specialist magazines by some margin. Only 18.1 per cent of girls say school is the most important source, up from 13.6 per cent in 1990.

More than one in five 15-year-olds (22.5 per cent) were in a steady relationship, with girls more likely to be dating and more likely to have sex. In 1990, 26.5 per cent of girls said they had sexual intercourse, against 37.5 per cent in 1998. Boys are also on the sexual trail. Ten years ago, 24.9 per cent said they had sex, in contrast with 32.8 per cent in 1998.

Both teenage boys and girls agree that condoms are effective in preventing infection and unwanted pregnancy and are easy to obtain and use. However, nearly a quarter of sexually active 15-year-olds admit they used no contraception the last time they had sex.

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