Expanding our reach: The potential for youth development professionals in community-based organizations to provide sexuality information
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Adolescents in the United States continue to face sexual health issues. While community-based organizations (CBOs) have a long history of addressing the sexual health needs of those they serve, little attention has been given to CBOs focused on adolescent populations and the role youth development professionals (YDPs) might play in the advancement of sexual health. The purpose of this study was to assess the potential of YDPs to provide sexuality information to youth by 1) determining the frequency and type of questions YDPs receive from youth on sexuality and 2) ascertaining the perceived comfort, confidence, skills, and knowledge of YDPs in answering questions from youth and characteristics that might be predictive of increased levels of perceived comfort, confidence, skills, and knowledge. Utilizing a community-based participatory research process that engaged the researchers with leaders, key stakeholders, and youth development professionals from community-based organizations throughout the state, data were collected from 169 YDP in Indiana. YDPs received questions from youth on a broad array of sexuality-related topics with personal skills and relationships being the most frequent topics. YDPs had high perceived levels of comfort, confidence, skills, and knowledge (CCSK) in addressing questions from youth about sexuality. Training, both formal classroom-type training and more informal practices such as advice-seeking from a professional, was the only factor predictive of higher levels of CCSK. Results indicate that YDPs might play an important role in providing sexuality information to youth. Communities interested in ameliorating disparities among youth might want to consider including CBOs and YDPs in an ecological approach to sexual health education. © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
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