A new report advised that pediatricians should help in educating their patients about sex and how parents can best talk to their children about sexuality.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' report, pediatricians can help complement the sex education children are getting at home and school by becoming additional sources of reliable information.
The advice followed a past study wherein findings showed that children who are given trustworthy and age-appropriate information about sex and sexuality fare better in preventing and reducing teenage pregnancy risks as well as sexually transmitted diseases.
"Research has conclusively demonstrated that programs promoting abstinence-only [behavior] until heterosexual marriage occurs are ineffective," said Dr. Cora Collette Breuner, the report's lead author and pediatrics professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
In fact, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the Academy, the American Public Health Association, the National School Boards Association and the National Education Association all oppose initiatives that focus on abstinence-only education.
The medical groups all endorse a wide-ranging sexuality education that incorporates promotion of abstinence with correct information about sexually transmitted infections, human sexuality and contraception.
Breuner and co-author Gerri Mattson added that sex education is not just about telling children and young adults about the physiology and anatomy of sex and reproduction. It also talks about gender identity and affection to name a few and should include children with chronic health conditions, special needs or disabilities.
Breuner added that pediatricians should include information about other issues surrounding sex and sexuality during their talks with child patients. These issues could include intimacy, body image, consensual relationship, interpersonal relationship and a healthy sexual development.
The report found that many pediatricians do not discuss sexuality with their patients today. In the report, they highlighted one review wherein one in three teenagers did not get any information about sexuality from their pediatricians. Among those who did receive such information, the talk lasted for less than a minute, 40 seconds to be exact.
Breuner added that teenagers, even children, should be encouraged not only to ask their doctors such questions but also share concerns such as body image and sexuality issues. The doctors then can provide accurate and personalized information in a "safe setting."
The new report advised that these sex talks can start during early childhood and continue during regular visits through school age, adolescence and young adult years. The talks should be connected to healthy cognitive, physical and psychosexual development.
The report was published in the Pediatrics journal on July 18.