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The research landscape of school-based sexuality education: systematic mapping of the literature

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Line Anne Roien
  • ,
  • Christian Graugaard, Department of Clinical Medicine, Center for Sexology Research, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark., Denmark
  • Venka Simovska
Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to map and discuss the overall characteristics of international research on school-based sexuality education, published in academic journals, with a particular focus on the framing of non-conservative approaches including sex education research targeting pupils 6 to 12 years of age.
Design/methodology/approach - The paper draws upon the methodology of systematic research mapping and presents a broad overview of research on sexuality education in a school setting for pupils aged 6-16. We searched the leading bibliographic databases in the field, i.e., ERIC, PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, Australian Education Index, British Education Index and Education Research Complete, using the search terms “sex education" AND “school” AND “children” OR “adolescents”. The mapping focused on articles published in peer-reviewed journals in English, German, Danish, Swedish or Norwegian, in the period 2000 to 2016.
Findings - Out of 3,769 papers identified in the search process, a total of 576 papers were found to meet the inclusion criteria of the mapping. The mapping portrays a research landscape that is diverse and nuanced in terms of contextual, theoretical and methodological approaches, but also characterized by limitations. The findings point to the clear dominance of research on schools in English-speaking countries, conceptual research is scarce, and school-based sexuality education aimed at the youngest children seems to be neglected. The mapping identifies gaps in the literature that justify a call for more research from diverse sociocultural, political and geographical contexts, more conceptual research using social theory, and more research focusing on the potentials and challenges linked to sexuality education for younger pupils.
Originality/value - This paper offers a rare, if not the first, comprehensive overview of research on school-based sexuality education including a focus on school children 6 to 12 years of age.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Education
Pages (from-to)159-170
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Sexuality education, Schools, Literature review, Discourses

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