Posted: March 22nd, 2023
Sexuality Education for Children and Adolescents by Breuner and Mattson
The way to approach sexuality education in children and adolescents is an ethical dilemma involving questions about what to include, where to teach, and how to deliver the content. While some interested parties agree with the need for sexuality education, they suggest the importance of abstinence-only curriculum to support morality in society. On the other hand, other stakeholders advocate the need for comprehensive training, including contraceptive use and reproductive health to ensure that young people make the right decision regarding their sexuality. Regardless of such arguments, the United States faces a serious issue relating to early sexual encounters, including unintended teenage pregnancies. The solution lies in ethical frameworks to determine the right course of action. Beneficence will help health care providers and other sexuality educators provide information relating to the subject. Rest’s model of moral development is another critical morality framework that will inform the nature and delivery of sexuality education.
Ethical Dilemma: How to Approach Children and Adolescent Sexual Education
Clinicians play an important role in teaching about sexuality to children and adolescents. The topic is critical in healthcare settings, creating the need for evidence-based practice in its implementation. Pediatricians are provided with clinical guidelines relating to the delivery of sex education to young people. The American Academy of Pediatrics published the working definition of sexuality education for the practitioners to use in their practice (Breuner & Mattson, 2016). Besides, the professional body has proposed an ethical approach that delivers educational content. Developing and implementing human sexuality and sexual reproduction practice is an important concept that helps the youth to make informed decisions regarding their sexuality and reproductive health. Regardless of the importance of sexuality education, the topic triggers considerable debate regarding the ethics of sex education to children and adolescents.
The Ethical Dilemma and Solution
While there appears to be an agreement about the need for sex education in the United States, an ethical dilemma around what should be taught, where the teaching should occur, and how to deliver the content is evident. Various stakeholders, including healthcare providers, educators, parents, religious leaders, and community leaders, among others, fail to agree about the questions relating to sexuality education. The interested parties maintain diverse views and exhibit differences in their level of understanding of the ethical issue of sexuality education. One of the ethical debates involves the question of attendance versus the use of contraceptives, such as a condom to prevent STIs and pills as well as other contraceptives to prevent early pregnancy.
On the one hand, other groups, including religious leaders, advocate for abstinence as the most ethical behavior to instill in children and adolescents (Lamb, 2015). Therefore, sex education should take the form of abstinence-only. However, some groups feel the need to be open and honest with children and adolescents because of the early age in which they are experimenting with sexual intercourse. Consequently, they should be taught how to practice safe sex, including the use of condoms and other contraceptives. Hence, the ongoing debate triggers a serious ethical dilemma for interested parties in sex education.
Without a doubt, society faces a crisis involving sex and sexuality matters. The United States leads with the number of teenage pregnancies. Notably, estimates in the country show that 88% of births to teenagers (between 15 and 17 years old) in the U.S. are unintended. Besides the unintended pregnancies, early sexual encounters place children and adolescents in the country at the risk of STIs, including HIV/AIDS. Regardless of the ethical dilemma and controversy surrounding sexuality education, the intervention is critical to protect American children and adolescents from negative sexuality choices (Barr et al., 2014). Therefore, it is ethical for health care providers, such as pediatricians, and other educators in other settings such as the church, school, and home, to protect children and adolescents from the damaging impact of early sexual encounters by providing accurate and timely information about their sexuality. Sexuality education should be considered an integral part of preventive care because of the vital role it plays in preventing negative health outcomes of early sex encounters.
It is critical and timely to include sexuality education in the curriculum and make it part of best practice in pediatric care to protect children and adolescents from making decisions or choices that can be detrimental to their health. They should follow evidence-based guidelines for comprehensive sexuality education to implement the intervention in practice. Regardless of moral reasoning, it is important to remain truthful and honest with the youth to help them to make informed and correct decisions. The National Guidelines Task Force acknowledges the ethics in teaching sexuality to children and youth. It suggests the need to provide comprehensive information relating to sexuality and reproductive health. The nature of education should allow the youth to explore the ethical implications of their sexual behaviors and to take the right action when confronted with a sexual or relationship dilemma.
Ethical principles in nursing practice apply to sexuality education because it is a clinical issue whose solution lies with health care providers. Truthfulness and confidentiality are critical principles that pediatricians and other sexuality educators should adopt to teach sex education effectively. Truthfulness involves being honest with individuals who have the right to the truth. For example, children and adolescents have the right to know the truth about their sexuality. Therefore, health care providers should teach them honestly. Professionals should not conceal important information that can save the youth from the adverse effects of early and unprotected sex (Barr et al., 2014). Confidentiality involves the practice of safeguarding personal information. Considering the sensitive nature of sexuality, health care providers should strive to exercise the secrecy of information that children and adolescents provide (Lamb, 2015). For example, pediatricians should not disclose personal information revealed during a session with a client. As a result, they will gain the confidence of the youth and be able to help them overcome the sexuality crisis.
The solution is also based on Rest’s model of moral development from the perspective of giving children and adolescents the tools to develop their morality. The model includes four internal processes that play a significant role in promoting moral behavior: “moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, and moral character” (Tanner & Christen, 2014, p. 119). Educators should include the kind of education that will appeal to each of the moral processes and enable them to interpret situations relating to the potential courses of action. Besides, it should entail the effects of the decision to the individual, and others, as well as judge the right action to take when faced with a dilemma. The training should assist them in selecting moral values rather than personal values while building efficient ego, strength, and skills to overcome ethical challenges. Therefore, educators and health care providers should provide comprehensive information to young people to make moral actions and choose the right course of action when faced with ethical issues (Thoma & Dong, 2014). They should provide sexuality information as truthfully as possible.
Beneficence is the principle of bioethics that relate to the need to provide children and adolescents with sexuality education. The principle involves the need to do good for the patient and working in such a way that a provider observes the best interests of the patient. Therefore, it is important for healthcare providers and other sexuality educators to do good for children and adolescents by educating them on the way to avoid making detrimental choices relating to their sexuality and reproductive health. In achieving the objective, the healthcare provider maintains the other three bioethical principles, including nonmaleficence (not to harm patients), autonomy (respecting patient’s choices), and justice (equal distribution of the benefits and risks of an intervention) (Cheong & Tay, 2014). Healthcare providers, including pediatricians, are trained to operate ethically and protect their patients from any decision that might harm them. Beneficence requires that they are observant and hence prioritize the interests of the patients. In sexuality education, it is about ensuring that children and adolescents have the necessary information and knowledge to make informed choices.
Personal Ethics Correlation to the Community
I believe in the ethical obligation of health care providers and other educators to provide children and adolescents with accurate knowledge about sexuality to develop positive ways of practicing sexual behavior. Since children and adolescents are growing, it is necessary to support them to develop positively in all areas, including their sexuality, to become responsible members of the community (Breuner & Mattson, 2016). They should be taught how to avoid sexual behaviors that can be risky to their health and lead to issues, such as sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. A considerable number of children and adolescents experience sexual encounters when still young, risking the health challenges and the chance to live a positive and responsible life. Therefore, sexuality education interventions can be effective in reducing the risk of teenage pregnancy, HIV, and STIs,
Ethically, sexuality education is critical to ensure that children and adolescents avoid decisions that might impact their lives negatively. Various avenues can be used for the delivery of sex education for children and youth, including schools, homes, communities, and medical offices using interventions that have proven effective for the purpose. Regardless of the controversy regarding sexuality education, children and adolescents have been revealed to benefit from evidence-based and appropriately delivered sexuality education.
Furthermore, to be effective, sexuality education should appeal to various developmental areas in children. The topic should go deep into developing positive sexuality by processing information provided by sexuality educators in different settings. Thus, the education process should teach students about problem-solving and decision-making regarding sexuality. For example, the information should appeal to their attitude towards, beliefs, and values relating to their sexuality. It should help them to develop healthy sexuality, including the ability to form and maintain positive interpersonal relationships and to value their body, and hence, preserve their dignity. Therefore, I believe in the responsibility of the members of the community to provide information and impart knowledge about sexuality.
Sexuality education is an ethical dilemma in various parts of society because of the sensitivity of the topic. While some members of the community, including health care providers, might support sexuality education for children and adolescents, others, including parents and members of the society might consider it a taboo to teach the young people about sexuality. Regardless of the ethical question surrounding the topic, the reality is that early sex encounters have a detrimental effect on health and other outcomes of many teenagers in the United States, including early unintended teenage pregnancies and the risk of contracting STIs, such as HIV/AIDS. Therefore, from the ethical implications of preventing the detrimental effects and helping the youth to make positive choices regarding their sexuality, evidence-based sexuality education is a critical intervention and should be implemented in various avenues, including in healthcare, home, school, churches and other areas in society where learning occurs.
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