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Narrative Sensemaking and Time Lapse: Interviews with Low-income Women about Sex Education

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Secondary-school students in the United States score notoriously low on tests of their reproductive and sexual knowledge despite attempts by educators and legislators to provide them with informative sex-education courses. In this paper, we build from narrative theory to explore how low-income women perceived their formal sex-education experiences and how they connected those experiences to their sexual-health knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors. Drawing from interviews with 30 low-income women, we identify and develop a typology of sex-education narratives: narratives of regret, narratives of satisfaction, and narratives of uncertainty. We also investigate existing theoretical claims that lapses in time between lived events and the narration of those events connect to sensemaking efforts. We find that younger women in the sample were more likely to tell narratives of uncertainty than were older women. These results have implications for the study of narrative theory, sexual-health communication, and the discourse of public sex education.

Keywords: Health Communication; Narrative; Sex Education

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2011


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