A gap exists between the type of sex education young people want and what they receive, says a study.
Researchers investigating how young men and women learn about sex found that young people want to receive more information about sex and relationships from their parents.
“The terrain young people have to navigate as they are growing up has changed considerably over the past 20 years and it will inevitably continue to do so,” said study author Clare Tanton.
“This means that while we need a more structured approach towards sex and relationship education, we must also be able to adapt to these changing needs,” Tanton added.
The researchers also identified differences between how men and women learn about sex and relationships.
The two studies utilised data from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) – the largest scientific study of its kind in the UK.
All participants involved in the studies were between 16 and 24 years of age.
The researchers found that, when growing up, the main source of information about sexual matters is now the school, having risen from 28 percent in 1990 to 40 percent in 2012.
Parents were the main source of information for just 7 percent of men and 14 percent of women, and health professionals for only 1 percent of men and 3 percent of women.
In contrast, around half of the participants of both genders reported obtaining the bulk of their information from “other sources” – sources deemed to be less authoritative, such as siblings, Internet and pornography.
These findings, however, conflict with what the young people participating in the study wanted.
“When asked for their preferred source of additional information, young people most commonly reported school, followed by parents and health professionals,” said study author Wendy Macdowall.
The findings appeared in the journal BMJ Open.