Adolescents undergo significant physical and cognitive changes during their pubertal development. These changes contribute to and impact their future development. Educating adolescents at an early age about their expected development decreases the possible anxiety associated with this period of life and also helps adolescents make better choices in regards to their sexuality. In order to assess the degree of education regarding pubertal development and sexuality, we conducted a survey of late adolescents (Median age 19 years) and parents of adolescents. A total of 409 adolescents (237 females, 172 males) and 124 parents completed the survey. 14.4% of teens (36.6% of males and 2% of females) reported that no one spoke to them prior or during puberty about pubertal development or sexuality issues. Teens receiving some form of puberty/sexuality education did so at a median age of 13 for girls and 15 for boys. More than one source of information was the most common (49%) followed by mother only (20%). 85% of parents reported talking to their teens about pubertal development and sexuality. There were several differences between areas reported covered by parents but not by teens, for example 72% of parents reported talking to their teens about gender differences in growth but only 31% of teens reported being spoken to about that. Areas that are very poorly covered are breast development in boys and sexual assault/date rape in girls at 5% and 26% respectively. In summary, it appears that we continue to do a relatively poor job in educating our kids about their development and sexuality and we do it late. Boys are even less likely than girls to be talked to about many areas of pubertal development and sexuality and when that is done, it is done at a later age.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Omar, Hatim A.; McElderry, Darby H.; and Zakharia, Rana M., "Educating Adolescents about Puberty: What are we Missing?" (2003). Pediatrics Faculty Publications. 83.