“I want my kids to have great sex!”: A qualitative inquiry into conservative Christian parents' attitudes toward sexual education
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Scholars and public opinion alike often claim that support for abstinence only sex education is found primarily in the “religious right.” Previous research has found that religion has the power to uniquely affect the views of its adherents. In this study, I seek to find what variance exists among a small sample of evangelical Christians gathered from one discrete geographic area, as determined by their views on sexual education, and what factors affect these variances. Specifically, this study seeks to answer the following questions: • Do evangelical Christians in this study support abstinence based education? What specific material related to sexual education do these evangelical Christians want their children to be taught? Who should teach this material, and how/where should it be taught? • For these evangelical Christians, what kind of interaction exists between beliefs about sexual education and religious beliefs and experience? • What factors, other than religion, if any, do these evangelical Christians cite as decisive factors in their beliefs about sexual education? • Do distinctions between various sexual education programs and methods currently utilized in the research actually provide meaningful categories in which parents will self-identify? To answer these questions, I asked a group of evangelical Christians, who are religiously homogenous based on a well-tested religiosity metric, to identify their beliefs as to the context (where and how) in which sexual education should be taught, as well as the content (subject matter) of sex education curriculum. Parents diverged into three groups that each had unique beliefs about the content and context of sexual education in schools. None of these groups aligned with current educational curriculum classifications (such as abstinence only, abstinence plus, or comprehensive education). Additionally, one of the groups of parents are uniquely identified by all belonging to the same church, indicating that church membership may play a role in beliefs about sexual education.