Father talks to young son about sex and sexuality

Understanding the Facts

Below are some facts about sexual health education. These facts highlight why this information is so important for your child’s overall health and development.

  • In a 2014 study, 69.2% of Alberta high schoolers thought it is more normal for teenagers to engage in sexual activity than not to 1.
  • According to the Health Behaviours in School-aged Children Study, a 2020 survey of Canadian teens, 13% of grade 9 students and 26% of grade 10 students reported having had sex 2.
  • Teens want to learn about sex from someone they trust and stated that a parent or teacher would be someone they trust 1.
  • Education and programs to improve teen sexual health do work. Teens are more likely to delay their first sexual experience with a partner. They’re also more likely to use condoms and other birth control 3, 4, 5.
  • Research shows that parent-child communication about sexual health can positively affect teen sexual behaviour 7, 8, 9.
  • Programs that gave children the correct information at the right age showed that they had sexual intercourse later and used condoms more often 6.
  • Programs that taught abstinence-only didn’t delay intercourse, prevent pregnancy or prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) 5, 6.
  • Many parents support comprehensive, school-based sexual health programs. They see schools as having knowledge and correct sources of information for their kids 7, 8.
  • Most parents want to play a role in their child’s sexual health education. Some parents said that they wanted to give their children the information they wished their parents had given them 11, 12, 13.
  • Parents report that school-based sexual health education makes it easier for them to talk with their children. They felt it created realistic chances for them to talk and share information at home 10, 14.
  • Studies show that most parents feel that talking with their children protects them from STIs and unintended pregnancy 14, 15.
  • Teens would rather get their sexual health information from their parents than from other sources. Many saw their parents as reliable sources of information and felt that their parents had their best interests in mind 10, 16.
  • Teens report that they don’t trust the internet to give them the correct information. They said they use it to confirm what their parents, teachers or peers have told them 17.
  1. Heudes, A., Pei, J., El Hassar, B., Poth, C., Radil, A. (2014). The youth prevention study: Understanding youth perceptions of alcohol, drugs and sex. Alberta Centre for Child, Family & Community Research (U of A),
  2. Craig, W., Pickett, W., & King M. (2020). The health of Canadian youth: Findings from the health behaviour in school-aged children study. Public Health Agency of Canada,
  3. Starkman, N. & Rajani, N. (2002). The case for comprehensive sex education. AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 16(7)
  4. Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights (2019). Why does sex-ed matter? Because science says so! Why Does Sex-Ed matter? Because science says so! | Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (
  5. Boyer, J. (2018). New name, same harm: Rebranding of federal abstinence-only programs. Guttmacher Policy Review, 21.
  6. SIECCAN. (2020). Questions & answers: Sexual health education in schools and other settings. Toronto, ON: Sex Information & Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN). Questions-and-Answers-Sexual-Health-Education-in-Schools-and-Other-Settings.pdf (
  7. Barr, EM, Moore, MJ, Johnson, T, Forrest, J, Jordan, M. (2013). New evidence: Data documenting parental support for earlier sexuality education. Journal of School Health, 84(1)
  8. Heller, J.R. & Johnson, H.L. (2013). Parental opinion concerning school sexuality education in a culturally diverse population in the USA, Sex Education, 13(5),
  9. Weaver, A.D., Byers, E.S., Sears, H.A., Cohen, J.N., & Randall, H.E.S. (2002). Sexual health education at school and at home: Attitudes and experiences of New Brunswick parents. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 11(1)
  10. Klein, V., Becker, I., & Štulhofer, A. (2018). Parenting, communication about sexuality, and the development of adolescent womens’ sexual agency: A longitudinal assessment. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47
  11. Widman, L., Evans, R., Javidi, H., & Choukas-Bradley, S. (2019). Assessment of parent-based interventions for adolescent sexual health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 173(9).
  12. Bleakley, A., Khurana, Hennessy, M., & Ellithorpe, M. (2018). How patterns of learning about sexual information among adolescents are related to sexual behaviors. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 50(1).
  13. Rotermann, M. (2008). Trends in teen sexual behaviour and condom use. Health Reports, 19(3)
  14. Byers, E.S., Sears, H.A., & Weaver, A.D. (2008). Parents’ reports of sexual communication with children in kindergarten to grade 8. Journal of Marriage and Family, 10(February)
  15. Wilson, E.K., Dalberth, B.T., Koo, H.P., & Gard, J.C. (2010). Parents’ perspectives on talking to preteen age children about sex. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 42(1)
  16. DiCenso, A., Borthwick, V.W., Busca, C.A., Creatura, C., Holmes, J.A., Kalagian, W.F., & Partington, B.M. (2001). Completing the picture: adolescents talk about what’s missing in sexual health services. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 92(1) Doi: 10.1007/BF03404840.
  17. Weaver, A.D., Byers, E.S., Sears, H.A., Cohen, J.N., & Randall, H.E.S. (2002). Sexual health education at school and at home: Attitudes and experiences of New Brunswick parents. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 11(1)

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