Effectiveness of a sexuality education program on knowledge, problem-solving and empathy
Perry, Carol Lisa
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The effectiveness of a sexuality education program administered to ninth grade students was evaluated as measured by changes in knowledge of sex, appraisal of problem solving and level of empathy. The study utilized a pretest-posttest experimental design in which the following questionnaires were given at both test administrations: the Mathtech Knowledge Questionnaire which measures knowledge of sex; the Problem Solving Inventory which assesses appraisal of one's problem solving; the Interpersonal Reactivity Index; a multi-dimensional assessment of empathy. Following pretest administration, the experimental group participated in a 17-session sexuality education program.;It was hypothesized that the program would increase students' knowledge of sex, appraisal of problem solving and level of empathy. Gender differences in these areas were also looked at.;The results indicated that there was a significant increase in knowledge of sex but the program was not successful in significantly increasing appraisal of problem solving or level of empathy. No gender differences were found in performance on the knowledge or problem-solving questionnaires. On empathy, females scored higher than males on all measures and for the two cognitive components measured as well as for overall empathy, the differences were statistically significant.;The failure of the program to have a positive impact upon appraisal of problem solving and level of empathy was attributed to several factors. Major reasons given were the shortness of the program and consideration of the nature of the variables studied to early adolescent cognitive and emotional development. Although a problem-solving approach to decision making was encouraged and communication skills were taught, actual instruction and reinforcement of these skills was only one segment of a comprehensive curriculum. Sexuality education programs with objectives to enhance problem solving and empathy are viewed as being important. The failure of this study may be due to the comprehensiveness of the variables studied in a limited amount of time. Changes in behavior and attitude take place over the course of time and are difficult to achieve.;This study, then, added further empirical support for the effectiveness of sexuality education programs to increase knowledge of sex and to the finding of gender differences in empathy when assessed using a self-report measure.