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Dr Petra’s pick of the week

December 8th, 2004

Dr Petra

Every week we see countless stories in the papers about sex and relationships. Many of these aren’t based on reputable research, and some really good studies get missed out as a consequence. Here are the sex and relationships studies just published in academic journals that have caught my eye. They won’t have appeared in the mainstream press, and they could make great story ideas. More angles next Monday, so be sure to bookmark this page…

You’re never too old…
Researchers Hinchliff and Goff from the University of Sheffield have found in interviews with people aged 31-92, that sex remains an important part of a long term relationship. Health or relationship problems can affect older people, but older participants explained they actively worked to overcome these to enjoy their sex lives.
Use this story to:
Write a sex piece for older readers, and challenge the view that sex is only for the young. [Published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships]

Link sexual health services with schools
A survey of teenagers in Scotland revealed those who knew the whereabouts of their local sexual health clinic, and had also received school sex education, were more likely to use sexual health services. Those who hadn’t received sex education, had parents who closely monitored their behaviour, or were from a lower income background were less likely to visit a clinic, and were more likely to be at risk from unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.
Use this story to:
Advise teenagers where to get contraception advice, and to inform parents to talk to their kids about sex, and campaign for sex education in school. [Study by Parkes, Wight and Henderson, published in Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care]

At seventeen…
A study of diverse American teenagers has looked at their first love, first kiss, and first sexual experience. Kisses and petting occur before sexual experiences, but boys tend to have all these experiences at an earlier age than girls, and Asian teenagers have these experiences later than their White, Black or Hispanic peers. But almost all the participants reported they had experienced feelings of ‘falling in love’, normally around age 17.
Use this story to:
Reassure teenagers about sexual and romantic feelings, give parents ideas to talk to their kids, and prepare teens and parents to anticipate the emotional roller coaster of ‘first love’. [Paper by Regan, Durvasula, Howell, Ureno, and Rea, from California State University, LA, published in Social Behaviour and Personality]

Stop Sexually Transmitted Infections
Researchers have concluded that although fighting sexually transmitted infections, promoting safer sex, and trying to find a cure for viruses is important, for now, the only way to improve lifelong sexual health is to delay the first time you have sex, reduce the number of sexual partners, and avoid high risk sexual behaviour. [Paper by Genius and Genuis in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology].
Use this story to:
Discuss safer sex strategies, but question the idea that all people can apply them equally. Those in sexual minorities, women, sex workers, and children, may find it particularly difficult to adopt the strategies suggested by these researchers.

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