Sex Education: Theatre as a Medium for Reaching Students of Different Identity Types

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Teens are far more likely to engage in sex before they finish high school now than three decades ago. Recent data indicate that approximately 25% of Canadians will have had sexual intercourse by the age of sixteen (McKay, 2000), with the majority of young Canadians initiating sexual intercourse between 16-19 years (Maticka-Tyndale, 1997; see Crockett, Raffaeli & Moilanen, 2003 and Miller, Bayley, Christensen, Leavitt And Coyl, 2003 for reviews). In response to this need a participatory play, “Are we there Yet?” and workshop were developed by the play-right Jane Heather, Jan Selman Department of Drama, Planned Parenthood and Concrete Theatre. It was hoped that the play and workshop would assist students to make informed and appropriate decisions regarding sexual intentions and behaviors both short term and long term. To evaluate the effectiveness of, “Are We There Yet?” a team of researchers and a variety of community organizations were brought together with mutual concerns and complementary skills. We also know that that not all students respond in the same way and that it is possible that some students were more impacted by the play than others. One student difference that could impact student experience is Identity Formation Style. The purpose of this analysis was to determine if identity formation styles are related to how the students experience the play and in turn how the experience of the play was related to change in sexual decision making, sexual self efficacy and intentions to become sexually involved. The sample included 1201 grade 9 students in the Edmonton area who participated in the play and workshop experience. Administered to the students was a questionnaire that included both Likert type questions and scales, and open ended questions. These questionnaires were distributed to students pre and post. Causal modeling was done using Two Stage Regression Analysis. Findings were significant. It was found that information seeking and normative youth had a more positive experience when participating in the play/workshop experience than did diffuse students. It was also found that the various types of positive experience with the play (i.e. liking, participating, identifying and feeling impacted by the play) were related to positive changes in sexual decision making, sexual self efficacy and intentions to become sexually active. These findings and implications of the findings will be discussed.


Keywords: Sex Education, Theatre, Grade Nine Students
Stream: Learning, Education, Training
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Brenda Elizabeth Munro

Professor, Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Dr. Brenda Munro is a professor in the Department of Human Ecology. She teaches and conducts research in the areas of intimate relationships and youth at risk. Her current research projects include work with homeless youth and theatre the use of interactive theatre in working with youth who are thirteen to fourteen years old. Theoretical perspectives that have been applied in this research are identity development and attachment theory.

Jan Selman

Professor and Chair of Drama, Department of Drama, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Dr. Shaniff Esmail

Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Dr. James Ponzetti, Jr.

Associate Professor, School of Social Work and Family Studies, University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

James J. Ponzetti, Jr., Ph.D., D.Min., C.F.L.E., C.C.F.E. is an Associate Professor of Family Studies in the School of Social Work and Family Studies at the University of British Columbia. In 2002, he became a Faculty Fellow of Green College, a center for advanced interdisciplinary scholarship at the University of British Columbia. He has previously served on the faculty at the University of New Mexico, Central Washington University and Western Illinois University. He founded and directed the Oregon Family Nurturing Center, Inc. before moving to UBC. As a Certified Family Life Educator in both Canada and the United States (C.C.F.E., Family Services Canada, and C.F.L.E., National Council on Family Relations), he is committed to the enhancement and promotion of family life education in Canada. He is currently involved in numerous research projects, such as premarital rituals, computers and family functioning, the use of theater in sexuality education, and marital preparation programs. He is on the editorial board for the Journal of Teaching in Marriage and Family and the Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, and regularly serves as a reviewer for several professional journals including Personal Relationships, and Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

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