Term of Award

Fall 2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health

Committee Chair

Andrew Hanse

Committee Member 1

Stacy Smallwood

Committee Member 2

William Mase


Introduction: Comprehensive sexual health education can reduce the likelihood of adolescent pregnancy and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Georgia’s Board of Education requires sexuality education beginning in grade 8, however, guidelines require curricula to emphasize abstinence until marriage and fidelity in marriage. Variability exists among Georgia School Districts’ choice to implement comprehensive (including contraceptive education and demonstrations) or abstinence-centered sexual health education. Limited studies have used qualitative research methods to ascertain adolescent perspectives on receiving comprehensive sexual health education. The purpose of this exploratory qualitative study was to ascertain adolescents’ perspectives on facilitators, barriers, positive implications, and negative implications of comprehensive sexual health education in Georgia schools. Methods: Four focus groups were conducted comprising seventeen adolescent participants between the ages of 14 - 18 years. Grounded Theory was utilized to identify themes from focus group transcriptions and MAXQDA 12 was used to code transcriptions. Inter-coder agreement for each focus group was over 85%. Results: Sexual health curricula and resources, parents, school districts, religiosity, teachers, and student peers were reported as the barriers to receiving comprehensive sexual health education in their schools. Salient perceived facilitators to comprehensive sexual health education were teachers, trusted school personnel, parent advocates and community engagement. The most mentioned positive implications of receiving sexual health education were increased knowledge and self-efficacy, decreased morbidity of STD rates, decreased adolescent pregnancy, and access to community sexual health resources. Participants reported negative implications of adolescents receiving sexual health education were increased curiosity and sexual experimentation, parent discomfort, student discomfort, student disengagement, and unresponsiveness. Discussion: The results of this study reflect student’s discontent with their current sexual health education curriculum. Although not generalizable, the results of this study can be used to advocate for a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum that meets the needs of students at the local county level.

Research Data and Supplementary Material