Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Joy Goldsmith

Committee Member

Sarah Potter

Committee Member

Antonio de Velasco

Committee Member

Andre Johnson

Committee Member

Matthew Haught


Despite high rates of adolescent pregnancy and STD/Is, the state of Tennessee does not mandate comprehensive sexual education courses. Instead, family life education, more formally known as abstinence only sexual education, is only mandated if the pregnancy rate in the county is 19.5% per 1,000 15 to 17-year old’s. While there is significant literature condemning the use of abstinence only until marriage (AOUM) sex education, the outside religious and political influences of the area have prevented necessary sexual and reproductive health information from being communicated to our adolescents. To add insult to injury, restrictive legislation has been passed in 2023 that further restricts especially marginalized communities including the LGBTQIA+ community. This study aims to use the lived experiences of adolescents in the area to inform future sexual education lessons. Through analyzing their current awareness of STD/Is that have high adolescent contraction rates in the area, to understanding the stakeholders who impact their awareness of these infections, future research will be able to better frame sexual and reproductive health information in ways that adolescents desire. This project employs interpretive phenomenological analysis to explore the lived experiences of adolescents with sexual education content in the urban Mid-South. A snowball sampling method conducted by a local middle school administrator, in order to protect the anonymity of this vulnerable population, returned seven 14-year-old students entering the 9th grade for interviews. Results were categorized into several themes including awkward family discussions, preference for maternal involvement, safe spaces in friend groups, uncertainty and insecurity, and desire for representation. Students desired a more active, inclusive approach to sexual education courses while also being unsure what that would entail.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest


Open Access