Comfort Levels and Communication Styles of Sexual Health Educators: An Interdisciplinary Study

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Abstract

This study explored sexual health education (SHE) through the lens of public school educators in the United States of America. It examined their comfort levels and the barriers educators faced by asking, “How comfortable are educators when communicating sexual health topics to adolescents for them to build a foundation to become sexually healthy adults?” The qualitative, phenomenological study included 11 public school teachers among three school districts in the State of Indiana. Conducting intimate, face-to-face interviews with participants advanced and expanded interdisciplinary research. Educators shared their beliefs and values regarding SHE instruction and levels of sexuality comfort. Three findings emerged from the data that can contribute to research in the fields of education, public policy, public health, and communication: (1) An inclusive sexual health education program can provide educators with more sexuality comfort, (2) Teacher training and instructional materials relate to an educator’s sexuality comfort level and willingness to communicate SHE, and (3) An educator’s level of sexuality comfort may likely increase if engaged in SHE decision-making policies. At the time of the study, State policies prohibited comprehensive education, although participants preferred a more inclusive approach to teaching, SHE. Additionally, the concept of sexuality comfort (1984) was reconstructed and revised. This study offered an in-depth exploration into a topic - sexual health - that affects all individuals and established a foundation for future qualitative and quantitative studies.

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