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Sexuality Research & Social Policy

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 4–17 | Cite as

There is more to the story: The place of qualitative research on female adolescent sexuality in policy making

  • Deborah L. TolmanEmail author
  • Celeste Hirschman
  • Emily A. Impett
Article

Abstract

Individual testimonials have an unprecedented currency in policy making about adolescent sexuality. While highly problematic as grounds for making policy, the current deployment of testimonials as evidence may in fact provide an unexpected opportunity for qualitative researchers to capitalize on the power of stories to influence policy makers’ decisions. Qualitative research combines the power of stories with methodological rigor, providing policy makers with important information about the complexity of problems and suggesting possible solutions. In this article, we use the case of sexuality education policy making, which, in 1996, shifted to fund abstinence-only programs exclusively. By introducing key findings from qualitative research on female adolescent sexuality about gender inequality, we demonstrate the ways in which the sexuality education debate has left out central developmental and interpersonal aspects of girls’ sexuality. We then discuss the ways in which the findings from these qualitative studies can be used to inform sexuality education policies and practices.

Key words

abstinence-only education comprehensive sexuality education adolescent sexuality female adolescence 

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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah L. Tolman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Celeste Hirschman
    • 1
  • Emily A. Impett
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Research on Gender and Center for Research on Gender and SexualitySan Francisco State UniversitySan Francisco

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