Context Adults in any community are a potentially important source of sexual health information for young people. Open discussion of sexual health issues is associated with low rates of sexual ill-health. Adults who disapprove of teenage sexual behaviour are poor sources of advice. The study of adult attitudes to the sexual behaviour of young people is relevant to work on improving access to sexual health services.
Setting Adults' attitudes to the sexual behaviour of young people in an urban area with high indices of sexual ill-health were documented.
Design Data were collected via questionnaires administered in popular shopping areas by local people after training.
Results A total of 283 interviews were completed. Eighty-eight percent of respondents thought that the likely age of first sex among young people was under the age of consent but only 8% thought that the acceptable age of first intercourse was under 16 years. Knowledge of local services was suboptimal. Twenty percent of respondents did not know where young people could get contraception or advice on sexual health issues. Less than half (42%) suggested a general practitioner with a similar proportion suggesting a family planning clinic (FPC) or Brook clinic. When asked what services FPCs provide, only 40% mentioned contraception and 32% did not know. Despite their lack of knowledge, the majority (84%) of respondents would tell a young person where they could obtain contraception or sexual health advice. Seventy-six percent thought parents and 56% thought schools are the key sources of sexual health information for young people.
Conclusions Adults resident in this area have negative attitudes to the sexual behaviour of local young people and suboptimal knowledge of local contraceptive services. They do, however, identify themselves as potentially important sources of sexual health advice and may therefore benefit from more information and an opportunity to discuss their attitudes.
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