First-born children more likely to learn about sex from parents, study finds

Posted on: 2018-09-28 00:00:00

Sex education classes should equip teenagers to teach their siblings, reseachers suggest
Sex education classes should equip teenagers to teach their siblings, reseachers suggest ( Corbis )

First-born children are more likely to learn about sex from their parents, a study has found.

Birth order may play a “significant role” in how children learn about sex - especially for boys, new research has revealed.

The study – led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) – found that later-born children were significantly less likely to report a parent as their main source of sex education.

And younger children are more likely to learn about the birds and the bees from their siblings.

Males consistently reported lower parental involvement in sex education than females, the study also found. 

Middle-born and last-born men were much less likely to say that they found it easy to discuss sex with their parents when growing up.    

Authors of the study say sex education programmes could better equip teenagers to teach their siblings about sex - especially in light of the findings. 

The study comes as the government pushes ahead with plans to make relationships and sex education (RSE) compulsory in all schools in England and Wales from September 2020.

Researchers used data from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, the largest scientific studies of sexual health and lifestyles in Britain, involving more than 45,000 people.

Taking a sub-sample of participants - 5,000 people aged 17 to 29 who were either first-born, middle-born or last-born - the team analysed responses to questions about the involvement of parents or siblings in sex education and early sexual experiences.

The study, which was published in the journal Sex Education, found 48 per cent of first-born women and 37 per cent of first-born men reported learning about sex from a parent, compared to 40 per cent of middle-born women and 29 per cent of middle-born men.

The research did not find a clear association between birth order and early sexual experiences - although middle-born males were at increased odds of being under 16 when they first had sex.

Dr Lotte Elton, who led the research at LSHTM, said: “Although there has been much research into how the order in which children are born into a family may impact psychological or social outcomes, studies on the relationship between birth order and sexual health outcomes are limited.

“We have seen from previous research that parents are less likely to speak about sexual matters with their male children. Our findings suggest that there may be even less communication about sex with male children if they are middle- or last-born.”

Wendy Macdowall, senior investigator from LSHTM, said: “Our findings support previous work demonstrating the silence around sex between many parents and their children, particularly their sons, and highlight the challenges parents face in talking about sex may increase with family size.”

In the summer, the Department for Education outlined plans to make mental health education compulsory in schools after they asked teachers, pupils and parents what they thought should be taught as part of reformed relationships and sex education lessons.

Ms Macdowall added: “The implementation of statutory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in schools from September 2020 will, hopefully, eliminate the current RSE lottery so that all young people can expect good quality sex education.

“But that doesn’t let us parents off the hook. Young people tell us they want information from school and parents. Schools need the support of parents and issues raised at school can be a useful starting point for discussions at home.”

Eleanor Busby, Education Correspondent

Source: Independent

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