The ages 10-14 years are among the most critical for human development, yet one of the most poorly understood stages. While the biological processes that adolescents go through are universal, the social contexts within which they occur vary considerably. During the transition from child to adult, young people are expected to assume socially defined gender roles that determine their sexual and reproductive health future.
The Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS) aims at understanding the factors in early adolescence that predispose young people to subsequent sexual health risks and that conversely contribute to healthy sexuality so as to provide the information needed to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes. GEAS is led by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (Baltimore, USA) and the Department of Reproductive Health and Research of the World Health Organisation. It takes place in fifteen cities around the world. A cross-country comparison offers a unique perspective on the commonalities and differences of the role of parents, peers as well as media in shaping young people’s sexuality and the role of gender norms in that development across diverse cultural settings.
Initially, financial support of the Flemish Minister for Innovation, made it possible for ICRH to participate in the first phase of this prestigious research project together with its long-term partner, the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Since 2015, FWO and Senescyt are funding the study in Ecuador. In 2016 additional funding was approved by FWO and the South African National Research Fund to continue this study in Belgium and Ecuador.
In 2016, the GEAS study mainly focused on the development of scales to measure different aspects of early adolescents sexual wellbeing, including gender norms. All sites pilot jointly developed a first version of the survey that was subsequently pilot tested among 120 young adolescents in the 15 countries. Based on statistical analyses changes were made that will be re- piloted in a selection of sites in 2017.
Furthermore, the consortium has written a number of papers based on the qualitative data that was collected in 2015. These papers were peer reviewed and will be published in a special issue of the Journal for Adolescent Health early 2017.