Communication between parents and young people about sexuality is of great concern, especially in a Southern country like Vietnam. Although family communication about sexual themes has increased during the last decade due to the influences of Western culture in Vietnamese family, the quantity and the quality of this communication must be greatly improved.
Vietnamese youth are more open-minded when mentioning and engaging themselves in sex before marriage. However, their knowledge, experience and awareness of sexuality are still limited. The consequences of unsafe-sex due to lacking of appropriate sexual knowledge are unplanned pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease (STD) infections and also some psychological effects. In Vietnam, 11.2 percent of teenagers have sexual intercourse, in which 33.9 percent of them do not employ any safe-sex protections or birth control methods. Annually, there are approximately 300,000 cases of teenage pregnancy and 20 percent of infants are born by under-nineteen-year-old mothers, the vast majority of them reportedly unplanned. Vietnam also faces the high risk of rapid transmission of HIV/AIDS. 50% of new HIV infections are young people, and 62% of infections are in the 20-29 age groups (World Health Organization [WHO], 2009). Moreover, Viet Nam is considered to have one of the highest abortion rates in the world. According to International Consortium for Medical Abortion (ICMA) statistics, there were about 500,000 cases of abortion were reported from the public sector in 2006. The ratio of abortions to live births in Vietnam is high - 45.1 abortions per 100 live births and about 20 - 30% of all abortion cases belong to young, unmarried women (Vietnam Abortion Situations Country Report, 2001).
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Those statistics above reflect a fact that: although there are various studies and implements of sex education programs in Vietnam, the outcome of them are not good enough. In fact, most of the program and studies are quite general and not practical in the context of Vietnam, where sexuality is still a norm.
In Vietnam, parents usually do not initiate talking about sexuality to their children since are they afraid that giving lesson and knowledge about sex will evoke the curiousness about sexuality on their children; consequently, they will engage in sex actively and earlier. On the other hand, young people also avoid asking their parents about sexual topics. They prefer to learn about sexuality issue from the other sources such as internet, books, cell phone, and friends. However, the feature and credibility of major of them are uncontrolled and verified, which will lead to misconceptions about sexuality or even engage in sex without sufficient knowledge of safe sex and birth control (Chi, N 2009).
Therefore, it is essential to have further precise and detailed studied on the matter of sex education that well fits in the Vietnam context. In my study, I will focus on Vietnamese young people group only and the reasons why they avoid asking their parents about sexuality and reproductive health. This research will provide profound understanding of young people's conceptions and attitudes towards sex education in family. Thence, it will assist the parent and the psychologist in developing an appropriate sex education program in family for their children.
There are three parts in my research proposal. Firstly, I will provide a concise background on sex education, the matter of sex education in Vietnam family and its limitations. Secondly, I will explain the methodology that I will use in my research. The final part is a detailed timeline for my research process.
Sex education and its roles
Sex education programme aims at teaching children and young people about sex, sexuality, emotions, relationships and sexual and reproductive health. In the early stage of life, young people are trying to adjust to their changing in physic, emotion and psychology. In this period, they are curious about their changing psychosexual. Therefore, the objective of sex education is to help and support young people through their physical, emotional and moral development based on the three main elements of attitudes and values, personal and social skills, and knowledge and understanding toward sexuality (Department for Education and Employment [DEE], 2000).
Effective sex education will not evoke early sexual experimentation. It will further provide young people precise understanding of human sexuality and proper sexual behavior to respect themselves and the others. It helps young people to build up their confidence and self-esteem and understand the reasons for delaying sexual activity (DEE, 2000). Moreover, comprehensive sex education is effective at assisting young people to make healthy decisions about sex and to adopt healthy sexual behaviors (Brigid McKeon, 2006) as well as to avoid unintended pregnancy and negative sexual health outcomes such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV (Advocates for Youth,2009)
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According to WHO, ‘adolescence' has been defined as the period from age 10-19, ‘youth' refers to those aged 15-24, and the term ‘young people' is often used to refer to the combination of the two groups (ages 10-24).
The important role of sex education in family and its difficulties in the Vietnam context
Young people, who reported feeling connected to parents and family, are more likely to delay initiating sexual intercourse than others. Moreover, young people whose parents are warm and caring also reported less marijuana use and less emotional distress than their peers' (Lagina, 2002). Therefore, parents have a significant role in educating the children and young people. Moreover, parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children. A large percentage of parents reported that sex education should be taught exclusively at home because they can decide what information is appropriate to their children depending on their age, characteristics and maturity level (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States [SIECUS], 2009). Moreover, family-based sex education can:
Â· Allow for the sharing of family values.
Â· Provide accurate information to children.
Â· Build effective decision-making skills.
Â· Counteract negative and exploitive sexual messages in the media.
However, parents usually do not talk about sexuality with their children because they commonly have difficulties talking with each other about sexuality (SIECUS, 2009).
Firstly, in Vietnam, as there is a great gap in sexual conception between the parents and young people, young people find it hard and embarrassing to ask their parents about sexuality (Chi, N 2009). Since traditional attitudes and practices towards intimate relationships and premarital sexual intercourse are still considered improper in Viet Nam, the young people rarely approach their parents for information and direction. In the traditional view, premarital sex- ‘eating rice before the bell,' as it was sometimes called-is the norm. Premarital sex is considered as ‘social evil' and virginity is the most precious dignity of the girl (Chi, N 2009). However, due to the introduction of the Doi Moi (renovation) policy in 1986 and the improvements in mass communication such as internet, cable television, young people have become more familiar with and strongly influenced by the Western culture. There is a big change in their views about premarital sex and virginity (Mensch, Clark, & Anh, 2002).
Moreover, those young people who seek guidance from parents are usually not satisfied with their parents' answers since the parents may try to avoid discussion or not to give clear answers. The reasons are various. However, the most common reason is that the parents think their children are still too young to learn about sex education. They said that their children will learn about sex naturally when they get older (Chi, N 2009). Consequently, most of young people refer gathering information through books, films, internet resources or from friends. According to Survey Assessment of Vietnamese Youth carried out in 2005 by the Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF, mass media was reported to be the most common medium for informing youth about reproductive health (93.4 percent). The second resources are professionals with 80.2 percent and the third resources are friends (including peers, boyfriend, and girlfriend) with 75.9 percent. Only 63.3 percent were reported in accessing the family as a secondary source of information. However, many a time, young people approach wrong information or depraved resources, which will lead to misconceptions or even experiment sex without the knowledge of safe sex and birth control (Shetty, P, Kowli, S & Patil, V 2008).
To answer my research question, I will carry out in-depth interviews with ten young people. Interviewees are chosen through those characteristics:
- Five males and five females
- In the age of 15 to 24
- In high schools and in universities in Ho Chi Minh city
- 30 minutes interview
I choose both male and female interviewees since males and females will have different views and judgments on sexuality and sex education within family. Therefore, it is vital to learn the idea from both sides. Moreover, the age group of 15 to 24 is dynamic and eager to learn new things. They are also open-minded and the most group that strongly influenced by the Western culture. Therefore, their point of views will be various depending on sex, age and education background.
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My interview questions are partly developed in order to lead the interview into the main purpose. However, the other questions will be developed naturally during the interview based on the interviewee's answers. Therefore, each of my interviews will be designed flexibly and interactively like a friend-to-friend conversation so that I can learn from the interviewee the most honestly.
Choosing the topic and identify my research question
Starting to write my research proposal
Searching and writing the literature review
Finishing writing my literature review part
Identifying the suitable method to conduct my research
Presenting the research proposal
Developing the interview question
Conducting the interviews
Analyzing the collected data
Presenting the result
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12. Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), 2002, Innovative Approaches to Increase Parent-Child Communication about Sexuality: Their Impact and Examples from the Field, Annie E. Casey Foundation, viewed November 27, 2009 <http://www.familiesaretalking.org/_data/global/images/innovative_approaches.pdf>
13. Shetty, P, Kowli, S & Patil, V 2008, Attitude of Mothers towards Sex Education of Adolescent Girls, Regional Health Forum WHO South-East Asia Region, vol. 3, Regional Health Forum, World Health Organization, viewed on November 24, 2009,
14. UNICEF Vietnam 2005, Landmark Youth Survey launched in Vietnam, viewed on November 24, 2009,