Factors affecting parents in provision of sex education to adolescents: a survey of Embakasi, Nairobi
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Adolescence is a time of rapid development, discovery, experimentation and exploration in all aspects of life. However, due to various factors, young people are often unprepared for, and lack information necessary to assist them in forming attitudes and beliefs about their sexual identity, sexual relationships, sexual intercourse, and responsibilities as well as developing skills to make informed choices about behaviour and feel confident about acting on these choices. The gap in provision of sex education leads adolescent boys and girls to experiment in sexual activity and engage in activities detrimental to their development into responsible adults. Previous research has shown that parents are an important source of information and support to their children on sexual issues, and that talking with children about sex and relationships in the family enhances their confidence in dealing with challenges that come with the adolescence stage. However, parents are frequently not the primary source of information on sexuality while teachers playa minimal role. The media and peers rank high as the main sources of information. This study sought to examine the factors causing lack of participation of parents in providing sex education to the developing adolescents. Specifically, the study focused on five factors i.e. family structure, socioeconomic status, parent-child relationships, parent level of knowledge on sex education and modernization. The research was descriptive and took the form of a survey of Embakasi Division, Nairobi East District. The target population was parents, girls and boys in upper public primary schools in the division as well as selected key informants. Respondents were drawn from Mukuru kwa Njenga location in Embakasi division. Cluster random sampling and purposive sampling was used to select parents who participated in the study while purposive sampling method was used to select key informants. The researcher identified two schools in the division where boys and girls who participated in the Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were randomly sampled. A questionnaire was administered to parents and key informant guides and FGDs used to collect primary data. The study also used secondary data collected from various publications, journals and websites. The research findings show that while majority of respondents alluded to the need to provide children with sex education (95%) only 68% actually provide sex education. A significant 32% do not provide sex education for the fear that their children will go out and try to have sex while others felt that their children were still too young for such information. Findings from the study further show that most parents have a limited understanding of what sex education entails with 37% describing it as educating children on sexual relationships, 24% thought it is educating children about sexual identity and sexual intercourse and 12% did not know what it stood for. Only 8% of respondents provided a broader understanding of sex education as to mean educating children on sexual relationships, sexual identity, sexual intercourse and developing children skills to make informed choices. The study found that while a good percentage of parents do provide sex education, they are constrained by various challenges including limited knowledge on the scope of sex education and the struggle to meet basic needs which impacts on the amount of time spent with children. The implications of a fast changing world, and break down of the social support structures brought about by modernization also weighs heavily on sex education provision at family level. Based on the findings, the study recommends that parents should make efforts to find time to build healthy relationships with their children, and to ensure sex education is nurtured from a young age. Institutions dealing with sex education should partner with churches and other stakeholders based at the local level to implement evidence-based and sustainable programs that focus on empowering parents to integrate sex education within the ongoing, supportive parentchild communication. There is also need to revisit the role that other relatives of the child could play within the urban setup in the provision of sex education.