Adolescents' Perspective on Their Sexual Knowledge and the Role of School in Addressing Emotions in Sex Education: An Exploratory Analysis of Two School Types in Austria

J Sex Res. 2020 Nov-Dec;57(9):1180-1188. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2020.1802644. Epub 2020 Aug 18.


Sex education for adolescents should include building knowledge on the emotional, social and physical aspects of sexuality. This study aimed to find out how adolescents from two different school types perceived their own knowledge on sexual matters, the importance they placed on sex education in school, and how well they felt that emotional, social and physical issues were raised within the frame of sex education. A cross-sectional 74-item questionnaire survey was conducted among adolescents (n = 198, age 13-16 years) from two secondary schools and one polytechnic school in Austria. From the linear regression analyses, secondary school students felt more knowledgeable on sexual matters than polytechnic students (beta = -0.288, p = .005). Secondary school students had more knowledge on the biology of sexuality but were less informed of the emotional aspects and other topics masturbation [mean score (SD)] [2.42(1.24) vs 3.42(1.44); p < .001], forms of sexual contact [2.81(1.08) vs 3.54(1.22), p = .006] and dealing with love and sexual feelings in relationships [2.68(1.19) vs 3.33(2.60); p = .030] than polytechnic students. While teachers were considered important providers of sex education, a more varied and practical means of learning was desired. Sex education should allow for the interplay between fact and emotion using varied teaching and learning strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Austria
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Education / methods*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*