“The Buzz About the Birds and the Bees” Parental Reproductive Health Capital

Eulalie Laschever, Pacific University, Mercer Island, WA

Full manuscript: www.kon.org/urc/v10/laschever.html

Abstract This mixed-method study examined the social field of sexuality education through an exploration of parental knowledge levels and sources of reproductive health information. A 414 respondent survey identified relevant demographic information and knowledge levels on various aspects of anatomy and conception, sexually transmitted diseases, and birth control–demographic characteristics of gender, education level, income, and religion all influence reproductive health knowledge capital. Ten open-ended depth interviews with mothers provided a contextual anatomy for parent-child reproductive health conversations. Through this, three Expanded Forms (Life Experience, Mass Media, and Religious Institutions) and two Restricted Forms (Medical Professionals and College Attainment) of reproductive health knowledge acquisition were identified. These results were analyzed through Pierre Bourdieu’s lens of cultural capital.

Why Study Parental Knowledge of Reproductive Health? Over one’s life-course, a person encounters a variety of knowledge from any number of sources. As primary socializers, parents provide preliminary information on most topics children encounter, including playing a key role in disseminating reproductive health knowledge to children. Therefore, it makes sense to understand the information parents know and can therefore pass on. Moreover, an understanding of the origins of and influences on this knowledge is central to the discussion. Few would contradict the goal of providing youth with the highest quantities of the most verifiable information possible on most subjects; however, with the topic of reproductive health we remain uncharacteristically tight-lipped. Additionally, we have traditionally avoided the topic by saying such a private conversation belongs in the privacy of the home. But then researchers do not follow up on important aspects necessary for knowledge transmission, namely the nature of the knowledge being transmitted. The general moral climate surrounding sex and reproduction and our values regarding privacy and freedom help explain this avoidance.

Read the full manuscript: www.kon.org/urc/v10/laschever.html