Research & Surveys

A range of international and UK research and survey findings looking at the inter-related themes of SRE, teenage sexual health and relationships and sexual health sevice provision.

The items below have been selected because they are all free to download and do not aim to represent a comprehensive spread of the available research. Items are organised under the following headings:

Sex and relationships education

SRE methods and approaches

Relationships and young people

Sexual health

Sexual health services

A reading list is also available which provides a selection of key research articles, books and reports.

The Schools Health Education Unit (SHEU) have released a free resource to help with research projects - a literature search (233 items currently) for sex education research and young people. More details are available on their website.

Sex and relationships education


Classroom-based sex education programmes largely ineffectual, but incentives to stay at school can help (2016). This research – a review of eight trials testing sex education interventions across three continents – is being interpreted by some as evidence that sex education doesn’t work, but one of the paper’s authors wrote to us to clarify what the research can tell us. 

Communicating about sexual matters within the family: facilitators and barriers.(2012)Triece Turnbull. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore the facilitators and barriers to family communication about sexual matters. In Education and Health,2012, vol.30 no. 2, pp.40-47.

The sexual health educator and the provision of sex education in Wales. (2011) Stewart Attridge Education Outlines the sexual health educator role, established in Wales in 2008, and the provision of sex and relationships education [SRE] in Wales. [Download: Pdf 162.98Kb]

Consequences of Sex Education on Teen and Young Adult Sexual Behaviors and Outcomes. (2011) Laura Duberstein Lindberg and Isaac Maddow-Zimet, The Guttmacher Institute, New York City.  This US study expands on previous research on the association of formal sex education with sexual health and behaviors, and finds that formal sex education that includes instruction about both waiting to have sex and methods of birth control can improve the health and well-being of adolescents and young adults. [Download: Pdf 250.31Kb]

Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education: A mapping study of the prevalent models of delivery and their effectiveness (2011) Department for Education

This research investigated the delivery models of Personal, Social, Health and Economic education in primary and secondary schools in England. It examined whether there is a prevalent delivery model, how the different strands are delivered in primary/secondary schools, the length of the allocated time in the curriculum and the extent to which schools provide coverage of all elements of the subject.

Contributions of alcohol use to teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates (2010) North West Public Health Observatory (Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University)
This report report uses existing data on sexual health, teenage pregnancy and alcohol-related hospital admissions to identify relationships between alcohol use and both teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The results support the need for integrated approaches to health services for young people.

Sex and relationships education; views from teachers, parents and governors
(2010) Report of a survey facilitated by Durex in partnership with the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associatons (NCPTA), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Governors Association (NGA). The survey found a very high level of agreement between parents, school leaders and governors about SRE.

TellUs4 national report (2010) Ofsted This report covers the results of the TellUs4 survey of over 250,000 children and young people in England. The survey asked Year 8 and 10 pupils how helpful the information is that they receive on smoking, drugs, alcohol, healthy eating, handling your feelings, managing money, staying safe and sex and relationships. 13% of young people said they had not received any information on sex and relationships, 19% said the information they had received was not helpful and 53% said the information was helpful.

Talking about sex and relationships: the views of young people with learning disabilities (2010) CHANGE Final report of the sexuality project by CHANGE, 2007-2010. It highlights where the gaps are in sex education for young people with learning disabilities, and makes recommendations. Research was carried out with young people with learning disabilities using drama, interviews with parents and teachers and a national survey of special schools.

Customer Voice Research: Sex and Relationships Education (2009) Sherbert Research Based on discussions with a total of 47 mothers and fathers (in separate groups) with the aim to understand parents' views on SRE and if parents should have the option to withdraw their children from school SRE.

Sex and relationships education in other countries (2009) NFER
This desk-based research report presents country profiles looking at what sex and relationships education is taught, what elements are compulsory and if parents have a right to withdraw their children from any aspects.

International guidelines on sexuality education; an evidence informed approach to effective sex, relationships and HIV/STI education (2009) UNESCO These guidelines set out the rationale and evidence base for sexuality education based on a specially commissioned systematic review of the literature on the impact of sexuality education on sexual behaviour. A curriculum of suggested topics and learning outcomes is presented in four age bands spanning 5-18 years.

Durex - the Face of Global Sex report 2009 (2009) Sex and Relationships Education: Assessing the Gaps for Eastern European Youth'
The study reveals that regardless of their nationality, the younger a person is when they initially receive sex and relationships education, the less likely it is that they will feel the need for further sex education at later stages in their lives. The report concludes that universal access to formal sex and relationships education should be guaranteed to young people before the age of 12.

Review of Sex, Relationships and HIV Education in schools (2008) UNESCO This international literature review, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, finds that: "there is overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that sex, relationships and HIV education programmes can increase knowledge and affect values and attitudes. The report recommends that sex, relationships and HIV education begin in primary school and be teacher-led.

Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (2007) Kirby, D. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
This review sets out the behaviour and factors that affect teenage sexual health and reviews evidence from evaluations of educational programmes designed to reduce teenage pregnancy and STIs. It also presents analysis of the characteristics of effective curriculum-based programmes (see Chapter 7).

SRE: Are you getting it? (2007) UK Youth Parliament
Report of a survey led by young people based on responses from over 21,000 young people about their experiences of and views about sex and relationships education.

Sexual health in young people; International research summaries and Swedish experiences of preventive work (2007) Margareta Forsberg
Provides summaries of five international prevention reviews and places findings alongside experiences from Sweden. Identifies common themes for discussion including 'actors and arenas' and the structure and content of interventions.

Sexuality education in Europe; A reference guide to policies and practice (2006) IPPF European Network This document provides country-by-country accounts of the provision of sexuality education in 26 European countries. Data on demographics, policy and legislation is provided for each country and an introductory narrative exploring common themes.

SRE methods and approaches

Paternal Influences on Adolescent Sexual Risk Behaviors: A Structured Literature Review (2012) This review published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that paternal communication about sex was most consistently associated with adolescent sexual behavior, whereas paternal attitudes about sex was least associated. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos and others, Pediatrics,

A Review of the International Literature on the Role of Outside Facilitators in the Delivery of School-based Sex Education (2009) Crisis Pregnancy, Ireland.
Key themes examined in this review include peer-led approaches, theatre in education, nurses and physicians as facilitators and the use of computers and multimedia.

The impact of virtual infant simulators in tackling under-18 conception rates in Rotherham, UK (2007) Chavaudra, N. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care 33 (1)

Having a real debate: using media as a resource in sex education (2006) Bragg, S, Sex Education Journal

Does mothering a doll change teens' thoughts about pregnancy? (2000) Kralewski, J et al, Pediatrics 105 (3) March 2000

Relationships and young people

Sexually explicit cell phone messaging associated with sexual risk among adolescents (2012) Eric Rice and others in the Journal 'Pediatrics', published online September 17 This study concludes that sexting, rather than functioning as an alternative to "real world" sexual risk behaviour, appears to be part of a cluster of risky sexual behaviours among adolescents.

Britain has world's third highest proportion of sexually active teenagers(2012)Research published in the Lancet Series on Adolescent Health suggests that British teenagers are among the world's highest rates for binge drinking and underage sex. 

EU Kids Online: National perspectives (2012)Leslie Haddon, Sonia Livingstone and the EU Kids Online network. Published October, 2012.This comparative report summarises the internet-related experiences of children in the 33 countries now participating in EU Kids Online.  Download the PDF from the LSE web-site.

Girls' Attitudes explored: Role models (2012) Qualitative research inspired by the Girls' Attitudes Survey Girlguiding UK Presents girls' thoughts on role models in four areas: careers, teenage pressures, self image and sport. [Download: Pdf 5.55Mb]

A qualitative study of children, young people and 'sexting' (2012) a report prepared for the NSPCC Jessica Ringrose and others. This study presents an understanding of how sexually explicit texts and images are produced, circulated and used through mobile phones and the internet and how these practices shape the offline lives of young people.

Risky behaviours: young people and risk taking behaviour: creative consultation (2011) Stoke-on-Trent NHS Primary Care Trust. This report focuses on risky behaviours and is based on the responses of 102 young people using a creative consultation approach.

E. Formby.Sex and relationships education, sexual health, and lesbian, gay and bisexual sexual cultures: views from young people.(2011) Sex Education, vol.11, no.3 (Aug), pp255-266.  This article draws on three small-scale studies with young people in two cities in the UK which sought to gather views on SRE and sexual health, and included those who self-identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

A missing link?: An exploratory study of the connections between non-consensual sex and teenage pregnancy (2010) Maddy Coy, Kerry Lee and Liz Kelly. Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University.
Report presenting findings from the first contemporary UK study to focus on the association between sexual abuse, coercion, intimate partner violence and teenage conception rates.

Review of Sexualisation of Young People (2010) Papadopoulos, L. Home Office
Report by Dr Linda Papadopoulos on how sexualised images and messages may be affecting the development of children and young people. Among the recommendations are that schools teach media literacy, and that teachers are trained on gender equality. The report forms part of the government's strategy to address violence against women and girls.

Making a Difference for At-Risk Populations [Teens with Gang Affiliations](2009) National Conference of State Legislatures (US) report . In this study teenage girls whose boyfriends are in a gang are twice as likely to become pregnant as their peers.

Young women, agency and intimacy in sexual relationships (2009) Maxwell, C et al, Institute of Education  
This study set out to explore young women's understandings and experiences of power in their sexual and intimate relationships. Fifty-four young women in the Sixth Form of one school in southern England were involved in the research through focus group discussions, in-depth interviews and participant observation. The 'key issues' document sets out the research and policy context for work on sexual and intimate relationships with young people, draws out the key findings from the study, and includes a list of ideas for SRE teachers to build awareness of gender equality.

Together we can end violence against women and girls: young people's consultation response collated by NCB (2009) NCB
This report presents the views of young people on violence against women and girls and contributed to the government consultation on their strategy. Young people were consulted through a survey and focus groups and said that they are concerned that they are not taught about positive and respectful relationships from an early age. A young people's version is also available.

Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships (2009) Barter et al, NSPCC
This survey of young people aged 13 to 17  found that nine out of ten of the girls surveyed had been in an intimate relationship and a quarter had experienced violence from their boyfriends. Young people with experience of family violence were more likely to have experienced a relationship, and more likely to have experienced one at an earlier age than young people with no history of family violence.

Are you ready? Young people's views on sex and relationships (2007) fpa
Based on findings from discussion groups with young people this report covers issues such as influences, gender differences, consent and readiness and communication about sex and relationships.

Choreography of Condom use: how, not just if, young people use condoms (2005) Hatherall, B. et al, Brook
Using focus groups, survey questionnaires, diaries and interviews with young people this research explored the quality of condom use. Key findings relate to the importance of partner communication, confidence in how to use condoms correctly and the influence of friends.

Sexual health

Social determinants of health and well-being among young people Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: international report from the 2009/2010 survey (2012) Currie C et al. (eds) Copenhagen, WHO Regional Office for Europe, (Health Policy for Children and Adolescents, No. 6). Chapter 5. Risk Behaviours includes sections on: Sexual behaviour: experience of sexual intercourse; Sexual behaviour: condom and pill use; Sexual behaviour: scientific discussion and policy reflections.

Every Woman's Right: How family planning saves children's lives Save the Children (2012) This report highlights the fact that girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy than women in their 20s. [Download: Pdf 1.39 Mb]

Messed up? Sexual Lifestyles of 16 year olds in Northern Ireland (2012)- ARK report 1,434 teenagers across Northern Ireland completed the Young Life and Times Survey, an annual survey of 16-year olds undertaken by ARK, a joint initiative by Queen's and the University of Ulster.

HPV Vaccine and sexual activity - US and UK studies (2012) Robert A. Bednarczyk and others. Sexual Activity-Related Outcomes After Human Papillomavirus Vaccination of 11- to 12-Year-Olds. Pediatrics. Research from a sample of nearly 1,400 girls in the US finding no evidence that those who received human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination went on to engage in more sexual activity than girls who were not vaccinated.

Progress for Children: A report card on adolescents - UNICEF Number 10, April (2012) This UNICEF publication provides an overview of the situation of adolescents, including of their vulnerabilities in critical areas. It contains a chapter on Adolescent Sexual Behaviour, Childbearing And Maternal Health, And HIV.

Just Normal Young People: Supporting young people living with HIV in their transition to adulthood (2011) Report by Emily Hamblin from the Children and Young People HIV Network explores the experiences of young people living with HIV as they take steps towards greater independence. England.

A survey of teenage sexual health: knowledge, behaviour and attitudes in East Yorkshire (2010) University of Hull
This survey investigated the sexual health knowledge, behaviour and attitudes of young people ages 13-16 (school years 9, 10 and 11) across the East Riding local authority district. It was commissioned by The East Riding Teenage Pregnancy & Young People's Sexual Health Partnership Board with the overall aim to improve both the sex and relationships education (SRE) and the associated support that young people get from the schools in East Yorkshire.

Young people in London; abortion and repeat abortion (2010) Hoggart, L. and Phillips, J for Government Office for London
Research exploring teenage experiences of abortion and sexual behaviour before and after an abortion.  The research makes recommendations for strategy and commissioning, contraception and sexual health services, post-abortion services and sex and relationships education.

The Sussex Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Unsure (LGBTU) Training and Development Research Partnership (2009) This report is based on in-depth interviews and focus groups with young people and professionals. The main themes are 'coming-out', school and sixth form college, SRE, homophobic bullying and views on services, and training.

The condom broke: why do women in the UK have unintended pregnancies(2009) Marie Stopes International
The research reveals that many women attending Marie Stopes International centres in the UK for abortion services were largely unaware of the full range of contraceptive options. Others have misunderstood how to use their chosen contraceptive method correctly, resulting in unintended pregnancy, whilst over one fifth of those taking part in the study (22%) reported not using a method regularly.

Sexual health, Rights and Staying Safe (2009) UNICEF and THT
Reports on an on-line survey by UNICEF UK in collaboration with Terrence Higgins Trust with over 500 young people - the majority aged between 12 and 24 years - and in-depth interviews with a smaller group of selected individuals. It reveals that the majority of young people don't know where to go for trusted information on sexual health. Three quarters surveyed said they rely on internet search engines and half depend on advice from peers.

Who has sex with whom? Characteristics of heterosexual partnerships reported in a national probability survey and implications for STI risk (2008) Mercer, C. International Journal of Epidemiology 1-9

Condom use and consistency among teen males (2008) Ikramullah, E and Manlove, J, Child Trends Factsheet
Factsheet looking at condom use by young men in the United States. Finds widespread use of condoms for first sexual intercourse, but less frequent reporting by young men of consistent use thereafter. The report also found that teenage men who receive any type of sex education have higher levels of condom use and consistency.

Pathways into parenthood: reflections from three generations of teenage mothers and fathers (2006)  Hirst, J., Formby, E., and Owen, J. Sheffield Hallam University, Centre for Social Inclusion.
Explores the views and experiences of men and women who became parents while under the age of twenty. Includes recommendations for policy and practice.

Sexual health knowledge, attitudes and behaviours among black and minority ethnic youth in London. A summary of findings (2006) Testa, A., and Coleman, L. Trust for the Study of Adolescence/Naz Project London.
Reports on findings from research with over 3000 young people carried out by the Naz Project London and the Trust for the Study of Adolescence. Young people across ethnic groups said they would prefer to learn about sexual health at school and from a sexual health professional.

Casenotes: Alcohol and teenage sexual activity (2006) NSPCC
This 'briefing' style report explores the links between alcohol and teenage sexual health and draws on evidence from young people's calls to Childline.

Teenage Pregnancy Research: research reports commissioned by the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, DCSF, including the National Evaluation of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (2005) and a number of briefings focusing on young people who are socially marginalised and at highest risk of early pregnancy.

The sexual health needs of young people with learning disabilities (2007) Fraser, S. and Sim, J., Health Scotland
This briefing paper looks at the SRE and sexual health service related needs of young people with learning disabilities. It is an evidence review drawing on case-studies of promising practice, a literature review and consultation with young people. It concludes with recommended actions and next steps - with a focus on Scotland.

Sexual health services

Sexual health assessment in the extended school setting. British Journal of School Nursing, (2011), vol.6. no.9 (Nov) pp448-452. S. Enson.  Stephanie Enson looks at different aspects of sexual health assessment, including: delivering a relevant service, legal and safeguarding considerations, and training needs.

Are sexual health services in schools adequate? British Journal of School Nursing, (2011) Elizabeth Dodds vol.6, no.8 (Oct). pp397-404. This study aimed to highlight inconsistencies in how sex and relationships education (SRE) and sexual health services are implemented and prioritised in Nottingham secondary schools).

Young people's knowledge of local birth control services SHEU have produced two charts showing data on this topic, since 1993, from thousands of young people who have taken part in SHEU's Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire (HRBQ).  

School-linked sexual health services for young people (SSHYP): a survey and systematic review concerning current models, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and research opportunities (2010) Owen J, et al. Health Technol Assess 2010;14(30).
This systematic review of evidence found that there is no evidence to suggest that sexual health services, based in or linked closely to schools, contribute to earlier or higher levels of sexual activity in young people, but there is some evidence of positive effects on teenage conceptions and, among boys, sexually transmitted infection rates. The evidence suggested a number of principles that should inform the development of new services and the evaluation of established services.

Evaluation of the Teenage Health Demonstration Sites Programme: Final Report (2009) Sawtell M, et al, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London
The Teenage Health Demonstration Sites was a 2-year programme funded by the Department of Health from 2006-8. It ran in four localities; Bolton, Hackney, Portsmouth and Northumberland. The aim of the programme was to demonstrate different approaches to developing holistic adolescent health services. Key themes relate to professional skill-mix, leadership, involving young people and vulnerable groups. 

Economic Evaluation of a Comprehensive Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Program: Pilot Program (2009) Marjorie S. Rosenthal and others.  Am J Prev Med 37(6 Suppl 1): S280-S287. This study used a community-based participatory research approach, to develop estimates of the cost-benefit of the Pathways/Senderos Center, a comprehensive neighborhood-based program to prevent unintended pregnancies and promote positive development for adolescents.

An Evaluation of Brook Sexual Health Outreach in Schools (2008) Salmon, D et al, University of West of England
Evaluation of school-based sexual health services provision in 16 secondary schools in Bristol exploring service use patterns and outcomes, including the views of young people and professionals.

Adolescent health provision; factors facilitating the provision of young people's health services (2006) Young People in Focus
Published at the time of the launch of the Teenage Health Demonstration Sites programme this report includes a literature review and analysis of the factors facilitating and hindering provision of young people's health services.