Understanding Sexual Consent Among Adolescents

Protocol for a Scoping Review

Keywords: sexual consent, adolescents, scoping review protocol, sexual violence


Background: Sexual consent remains one of the most important tools in the prevention of sexual violence, for which adolescents are an especially vulnerable group. However, it is unclear how sexual consent processes are defined and used by this population. To bridge this gap in knowledge, we present a protocol for a forthcoming scoping review that will identify and synthesize the available empirical research findings on sexual consent conceptualizations and processes among adolescents.

Methods/Design: Using the framework by Arksey and O’Malley (2005), a systematic search of six academic databases (Education Source, ERIC, Gender Studies Database, PsycINFO, Social Services Abstracts, and Sociological Abstracts) will be conducted; this range has been selected due to the multi-disciplinary nature of sexual consent research. Following two levels of screening, data from the full-text articles will be charted and subjected to qualitative thematic analysis.

Discussion: These collated results will provide a map of key concepts and establish gaps in the extant literature in order to guide future research on this topic. The findings will advance our knowledge of sexual consent as it is understood by the adolescent population; they may also inform the content and delivery of sexual education programs to ensure that they are relevant to their target audience and assist in the prevention of sexual violence.

Author Biographies

Carolyn O'Connor, University of Toronto

Carolyn O’Connor, MSW, RSW, is a fourth-year doctoral candidate at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. She also works as a clinical mental health therapist in private practice. She is currently involved in a multi-site research evaluation of a gender-based and dating violence prevention program as supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada. In addition, Carolyn is on a research team examining the impact of collective sexual violence disclosures inspired by the #MeToo movement in order to understand how these disclosures impact sexual violence survivors’ decisions to disclose their experiences. Her research interests include complex childhood trauma, particularly exposure to intimate partner violence, as well as violence against women, sexual consent issues, and sexual violence prevention.

Stephanie Begun, University of Toronto

Stephanie Begun joined the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work as an Assistant Professor in July 2017. Prior to this, Stephanie completed her doctoral training at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, where her externally-funded dissertation focused on family planning attitudes, experiences, and social network influences among youth experiencing homelessness. Stephanie also served as Co-PI on a federally-funded (U.S.) grant which sought to develop technology-enabled innovations for reducing teen pregnancy through the use of human-centered design. Stephanie’s current research focuses on improving the health and wellness of marginalized youth, with particular attention paid to youths’ reproductive and sexual health access, education, and outcomes. Her practice-based experiences in family planning policy and community organizing inspired her career in social work research and teaching.