Comprehensive sex education; Abstinence-plus education; Abstinence-only education


Public Health | Public Health Education and Promotion | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Purpose: Despite broad public support for comprehensive sex education, its implementation remains controversial in the United States, especially in states such as Mississippi that have been identified as politically conservative. This study examined parental opinions regarding the implementation of age-appropriate sex-related education (SRE) (i.e., abstinence-plus education) in Mississippi public schools.

Methods: Data were used from the first state-level survey of a randomized sample of parents (N = 3,600) of public school students in Mississippi. The sample was relatively equally distributed between non-Hispanic whites (52.8%) and African Americans (48.2%). Bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to determine parental support for a number of components associated with comprehensive sex education (i.e., condom use demonstration).

Results: More than 90% of parents endorsed implementing age-appropriate SRE in Mississippi public schools, discussing the transmission and prevention of HIV/STIs during SRE, and discussing how to get tested for HIV/STIs during SRE. More than 80% endorsed discussing where to obtain birth control during SRE and more than 70% endorsed demonstrating correct condom use during SRE. Results varied somewhat across race/ethnicity and gender, such that African American parents who were female were most supportive.

Conclusions: Although Mississippi has been identified as a politically conservative state, our results indicate that an overwhelming majority of surveyed parents endorsed age-appropriate SRE. Results may not be fully generalizable to parents across the nation, yet they are consistent with similar surveys conducted among parents in Minnesota, North Carolina, and Texas to assess attitudes towards school-based sex education.


Statement of disclosure There are no potential conflicts of interest, real or perceived, for the authors of this manuscript. Our sponsors had no role in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; the writing of the report; or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.