A review of parental involvement in sex education: The role for effective communication in British families

Triece Turnbull, Anna Van Wersch, Paul Van Schaik

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


A review of recent literature (2000-2006) has been undertaken to investigate the role of sex education within the family context, in order to engage with the problems of sexual health in British society. The findings which emerged were categorized under the following five themes: (1) Parental roles regarding sex education; (2) The importance of effective communication in the family; (3) Parent-child interaction: differences in gender and communication style; (4) Content of sex education; and (5) Parents as primary sexual educators. The findings highlighted the importance of communication, and showed a tendency of children and adolescents wanting to learn about sexual matters from their parents. Studies on communication of sexual issues emphasized the role of gender, psychological factors and family dynamics in the effectiveness of sex education. Although the majority of communication on sexual subjects has been found to come from the mother, boys feel that the content is mainly steered towards the experience of girls. Consequently, boys use other sources (peers, the media and the Internet) to educate themselves about sexual related issues. Even though parents want to talk to their children about topics related to sexual behaviours, they feel embarrassed, uncomfortable and have neither the skills nor the knowledge to do so. A need for sex and relationship education (SRE) parent programmes has been identified to ensure that the information being taught at school can be reinforced in the family home. Thoughts for enhancing SRE within the family are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-195
Number of pages14
JournalHealth Education Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008


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