Sex Education Survey Results
We set out to gauge how Indian parents approach sex education, as a follow up to our panel discussion earlier this year. The objective was to understand the extent of openness in conversations around sex, the means of communicating the information (e.g., whether parents choose to use scientific terminology or cute nick names for body parts) and parents’ expectations of their children’s schools. Questions as to what parents deemed to be age-appropriate were also part of the survey.
As the responses came in, we realized that the responders were a self-selected group: those that were willing to share their thoughts on sex education (albeit anonymously) represent the more open minded of Indian parents. On the bright side, it looks like all the parents who took our survey recognize the importance of sex education, and are making a conscious effort to ensure their kids get the right answers when questions are raised. On the flip side, we recognize that this may not represent the majority of urban Indian parents. But there are some interesting findings.
Overall, we found that parents choose scientific explanations over simplistic ones, whether it’s anatomy, puberty, or intercourse they’re educating their kids about. Most respondents were also unanimous in what they deemed age appropriate: For both boys and girls, most parents said they would explain intercourse and pregnancy after age 7, and contraception after age 10.
This gives us a sense that overall, the respondents are creating a healthy environment as far as sex education in India is concerned, but the information shared differs according to age and gender of the child, and the gender of the parent. The following statistics were of particular interest:
1. In response to “at what age will you discuss anatomy with your child,” the dad’s responses were spread evenly across the ages of 1-15, whereas 50% of the moms said that they would discuss anatomy between ages 1-3.
This could possibly be attributed to the fact that, if moms are the ones who usually change diapers, breastfeed, or give kids baths, they may have more opportunities to discuss anatomy in an organic way. If some dads’ parenting experiences don’t naturally present those opportunities, they would need to create one, which may not always be possible when kids are very young.
2. Respondents with kids aged 0-6 all said they will or intend to discuss homosexuality, and those with children aged 7 and up were divided between yes, no, and uncertain.
This leads us to believe that parents either (a) overestimate how open they will be and/or (b) the cohort of parents with younger children has a different approach to parenting, or to homosexuality.
3. Fathers of boys and girls, and mothers of girls were evenly split between discussing only their child’s anatomy and that of the opposite gender. But when it came to mothers of boys 75% of them said they’d educate their sons about both genders.
These results could reflect a growing awareness about crimes against women, and parents’ efforts to ensure that sons are aware of the differences in their bodies and girls’ bodies at a young age. Another explanation is that if moms are the primary caregivers, when it comes to their sons, the difference in anatomy is perceived at a very young age, which is bound to raise questions, so mothers are forced to answer them.
4. Majority of the respondents skipped the oral sex question, or said they would not teach their children about oral sex
This indicates that parents either do not consider oral sex as part of sex education, or that they are uncomfortable discussing it.
5. In response to who would lead the sex-ed conversations, 50% of dads indicated that they would participate in sex-ed, not a single mom said she would leave the sex-ed talk exclusively to her spouse, and 40% of moms said they would lead it single handedly.
This leads us to conclude that (a) the dads are a self-selecting group, and those more interested in sex-ed are the ones who have responded to our survey, which may not be the case for the spouses of respondent mom’s husbands. There is also a possibility that (b) moms might be underestimating the willingness of the dads to participate in the sex-ed conversation.
5. 50% of the respondents said they weren’t sure what aspect of sex-education their school will address.
This leads us to believe that schools either (a) do not have a structured sex education programme or (b) there is no clear communication with the parents on what the content of the sex ed programme is.
What we’ve learned is that today’s parents recognize the need for sex education, and they are increasingly open with their kids. However, the role of schools in sex education is not yet clear, and most parents are in the dark as to what they can expect from the school. While parents continue to create a healthy environment at home, we think it’s important for educators to look into this gap, and re-examine their sex education programmes, involving parents along the way.