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J R Soc Med. 2005 October; 98(10): 477–478.
PMCID: PMC1240110

Adolescents and Sex: The Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People

Reviewed by Pat Grey

Sarah Bekaert
187 pp Price £21.95 ISBN 1-85775-880-3 (p/b)
Abingdon: Radcliffe Publishing .

Sarah Bekaert offers an insightful introduction into the world of adolescents by detailing the biology as well as the psychology of the teens. Case studies and examples of practice are combined with up-to-date information on difficult areas such as sex and the law, contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

Chapter 1, with its overview of the teen years including a summary of the milestones of development, prepares the reader for the complex and often controversial aspects of sexual health and young people. The ensuing chapters all stand alone, allowing the reader to 'dip in' according to need. The advice and discussion throughout is linked firmly to UK Government policy—for example in Chapter 4, 'Teenage pregnancy'. While not telling us anything new, this chapter usefully reminds us that teenage pregnancy is about more than just a lack of availability of contraception. As well as summarizing best practice the book offers useful models—some tried and tested, as in the excellently written second chapter, 'Engaging young people', which looks at communication and consultation.

Many of the queries we receive here at the Family Planning Association (fpa) concern setting up a young person's service, whether it be a youth clinic or an outreach clinic. The workers charged with this responsibility often don't know where to start. Chapter 9, 'Setting up a young person's clinic', provides practical guidance and workers will find the template at the end an easy-to-use and helpful reference. An occasional disappointment of the book is that, because of its broad sweep, it misses opportunities to delve deeper. An example is in Chapter 5, 'Young people and contraception'. A widespread assumption among workers and trainers in sexual health is that only some methods are suitable for young people. Reasons given tend to be based on hearsay or personal views of what young people are capable of. Whilst the discussion here begins with a presentation of research on contraceptive efficacy and young people, and the author does explain clearly why the intrauterine device is not routinely offered as the method of first choice for young people, the discussion stops short of saying that all methods are suitable provided that individual risk factors are taken into account. This is the guidance from the Faculty of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare and an exploration would have been helpful to lay to rest some of the misconceptions. Chapter 6, 'Young people and sexual health', on the other hand, does not shy away from discussing some of the controversial arguments around the causes of poor sexual health. Sarah Bekaert tackles head on the argument for service provision in the section 'Contraception provision: has this caused STIs to increase in young people?'.

Overall, the book strikes a balance between providing enough information to help practitioners new to the field and presenting a summary of the pertinent issues/guidance for more experienced practitioners. There is the added benefit of an extensive and varied reference list to encourage further exploration.

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press