research & academia, youth development & education

I’m studying adolescent sexuality!

About a year and a half ago, I began pursuit of a new stage of my career. As I spoke with other sexuality educators and activists, I became acutely aware of the need for research on adolescent sexuality that can inform effective sexuality education programs. I decided to apply to graduate school so that I could do this research.

I am honored to say that I just began a Ph.D. program in Child Development at Tufts University. Throughout my five years as a student at Tufts, I will be working as a research assistant at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, directed by Dr. Richard Lerner.

Dr. Lerner’s work appeals to me because of his strength-based approach to the study of adolescence, known as positive youth development (PYD). As the wording suggests, PYD is to the concept of adolescence what sex-positivity is to sexuality. What is “adolescent negativity,” you might ask? Dr. Lerner cites the stereotyping of adolescence as a period of “storm and stress,” one crisis followed by another, in which all that parents can do is make sure their kids aren’t on drugs or dropping out of school. But that’s not the whole story, nor is it the most healthy and helpful perspective. In fact, adolescents have all sorts of strengths and tons of potential.

Having a positive view on the potential of adolescents to be happy, healthy and productive people is a prerequisite to believing in the benefits of educating adolescents in a sex-positive way.

I plan to use the positive youth development approach for the study of adolescent sexual development, focusing on how school-based curricula and programs can proactively support adolescents in developing sexual agency, sexual ethics, and the social, emotional, and cognitive skills relevant to making healthy decisions and engaging in fulfilling relationships.

I face many challenges in pursuing this research, not the least of which is managing the sex-negativity that impedes even preliminary attempts to gather data from adolescents about their sexual beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. But I’m going to figure it out, and it will be worth it!

Published by Mimi Arbeit

applied developmental scientist, antifascist community organizer, sexuality educator

6 thoughts on “I’m studying adolescent sexuality!”

  1. suz says:

    you can do it 🙂

  2. Caryn says:

    This research is SO needed! I believe it is about factual information, not morality based information that will help young people to weight the FACTS, and make more positive decision for themselves… No parent will be in the room when a young person decided to become intimate….
    Kudos to you!
    Caryn Thompson- owner
    O!Zone Condom Shop
    O!ZoneWholesale- American importer of RFSU vegan condoms from Sweden.
    Twitter @RFSUvegancondom

  3. brazenbonbon says:

    "Having a positive view on the potential of adolescents to be happy, healthy and productive people is a prerequisite to believing in the benefits of educating adolescents in a sex-positive way."
    EXACTlY! Totally awesome approach. I think that if we are wrapped up too much in negativity or in preventing terrible things to happen, we lose sight of promoting positivity and encouraging wonderful things to happen. If we encourage adolescents to fulfill their potential, believe in them, etc, everything else will come together. Many teens resort to damaging behavior because they don't have positive reinforcement in their lives. Same thing with sexuality- if we promote positive sexuality, much of this negativity (homophobia, abuse, etc) will be seen as less acceptable to teens.

  4. Mimi says:

    Yes, promoting positive sexuality is important and valuable. At the same time, it is also important to do prevention work and specific education around homophobia, transphobia, abuse, etc. BOTH need to happen, but in a way that is consistent and complementary and still sex-positive.

  5. Jon Lehrer says:

    OMG Mimi I am so pysched for you and for the program and for the world that you're going to (and already are) influenc(e)/(ing) — keep me in the loop?


  6. Daniel says:

    Bookmarked Your Blog!Sexuality Is valuable and essential!
    Keep Spreading Your knowledge!!Super P Force

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