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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: JAMA Pediatrics Paper – Are Parents, Schools, and Healthcare Providers Forgetting to Have the Sex Talk?

A paper published in JAMA Pediatrics by Dr. David Bell, Columbia University Mailman School associate professor of pediatrics and sociomedical sciences, and Dr. Samantha Garbers, associate professor of population and family health, highlights the need for education that can help young men navigate the complexities of relationships — and ideally before sex enters the picture. They say that with the support of caring adults, and existing national guidelines that call for developmentally appropriate interventions early in life, boys can achieve healthier milestones without ambivalence or societal risk.

The article is in response to research in the journal which found that 3.6 percent to 7.6 percent of boys and young men say they are having sex before age 13 – or 1 in 13 boys. While the percentage of boys who start having sex at a young age can vary based on where they live and their mothers’ education level, only about half described their first time as something they fully “wanted.”

Drs. Bell and Garbers call for stepped-up responsibility and improvements in sex education and screening for sexual activity in youth. “Too often, the sexual health needs of young men are overlooked. These findings have major implications for the timing of sex education and sexual and reproductive health care.”

“Any discussions associated with pressures should include topics of ‘what it means to be a man’ and soliciting and giving consent,” according to Dr. Bell and Dr. Garbers. “It is critical to engage young men in self-reflection about the real pressures U.S. society places on them that affect their overall health and well-being.”