Sexual Health & Relationships

How SHARE is intended to work: the theoretical basis

The SHARE programme draws eclectically on both social psychological and sociological theory (Wight et al., 1998). Social-psychological theory focuses on the role of individual cognitions in shaping behaviour, cognitions being the components of one's thought processes. It is theorised that by modifying the relevant cognitions we can empower young people to manage sexual negotiation more competently. SHARE is based primarily on an extended Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1991, 2001) which emphasises personal susceptibility, perceived benefits of behaviour, social approval, perceived self-efficacy, intention formation and context-specific planning.

People are only likely to respond to a threat if they think that they are personally at risk; the SHARE programme stresses the likelihood of pregnancy if having sex without contraception and the widespread prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as Chlamydia, rather than focussing primarily on HIV. Behaviours are more likely to be followed if they are thought to be effective, rewarding and have few costs. SHARE presents the effectiveness of condoms in preventing STIs and the contraceptive pill in preventing pregnancy, and tries to reduce the barriers to condom use by developing acquisition, negotiation and handling skills. Sexual interaction is inherently social and is therefore especially likely to be affected by anticipated social approval and disapproval. By encouraging whole year groups to minimise their sexual risks SHARE makes it more likely that young people will anticipate their peers' and their boy/girlfriend's approval of safer sex or of delaying sex altogether.

Those who believe they have the ability to successfully undertake an action are more likely to intend to take that action and more likely to actually succeed, because they set themselves higher standards, exert more effort and suffer less stress. Perceived self-efficacy can be enhanced by careful explanation, by encouragement, by copying others' actions and by rehearsal and practice. SHARE has several exercises to enhance self-efficacy, including practical condom handling, the analysis of best practice negotiation of sexual encounters and role play.

The translation of intentions into action is facilitated by the development of detailed and realistic plans which allow the individual to specify how, where and when an action is to be carried out. Consequently, an important aspect of self-efficacy enhancement in SHARE is the realistic appraisal of how sexual negotiation is likely to unfold (for example, who is likely to say what) and what opportunities exist for taking and losing control, insisting on what you want and listening to others. By rehearsing and planning young people can be better prepared to deal with challenging social situations in which they are likely to have little time for contemplation. In particular they can be better prepared to interrupt non-verbal communication (for example caressing) by being alerted to the relevant cues. The nature of sexual negotiation is partially determined by the context in which it takes place, for instance by constraints of time (e.g. the return of parents), place (e.g. someone else's car) or prior expectations (e.g. having been invited back 'for a coffee'). SHARE therefore contains exercises in which participants predict risky situations and plan how they would respond to them, or perhaps avoid such circumstances altogether.


The sociological approaches that SHARE draws on are interactionism and feminist perspectives (Wight et al., 1998). Young people's understanding of sexuality, and their sexual identities, are formed predominantly through interaction with members of their own sex (Gagnon and Simon, 1974). By getting young people to discuss sexual issues with the opposite sex, SHARE aims to develop their understanding of gendered perspectives and, hopefully, develop their respect for the ways in which the opposite gender views sexual relationships. This should lead their perspectives on sexuality to be more influenced by the opposite sex, a development that, for most, would take place anyway at some point in the next five to ten years. The discussion of sexual topics between the sexes in the classroom is also intended to de-sensitise such discussion within relationships and to help young people develop explicit verbal scripts for such conversations. Extending the world of speech into sexual encounters makes communication on such practical issues as contraception and sexual pleasure more likely and more effective.

Within sexual encounters power can operate in many ways: it is not simply about physical strength. One of the most important ways in which young men often have greater power in heterosexual relationships is through social expectations about appropriate gender roles. Men have, or are seen to have, knowledge about sexuality and to hold such knowledge legitimately by virtue of their masculinity. An admission of ignorance can undermine their masculinity. Young women, on the other hand, may think that they have a right to enjoy their sexuality, but they are also constrained by the risks to their reputation of being seen as too knowledgeable or experienced, i.e. as a 'slag'. SHARE aims to empower young women at both the individual level, by providing the planning and negotiation skills described above, and at the social level, by attempting to modify the norms of feminine and masculine behaviour. This is done by encouraging pupils to reflect on cultural and personal assumptions and to develop alternative understandings that move beyond gender stereotypes that disempower women.


Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211.


Ajzen I. (2001). Nature and operation of attitudes. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 27-58.

Gagnon, J. H., and Simon, W. (1974) Sexual Conduct: The social sources of human sexuality.

London: Hutchinson.


June 1994:
Mandates and Constraints on Sex Education in the East of Scotland.
Preliminary Study for a Sex Education Initiative.
Report to The Health Education Board For Scotland.
Daniel Wight and Sue Scott


Content is comming here as you probably can see.Content is comming here as you probably can see.