Creative Industries


23 January 2014

Dreading that birds-and-bees talk with your teenager daughter? Then let the experts start the conversation.

Girlfriend magazine has produced a special edition magazine that draws on the comprehensive findings of a QUT research project into sexual health communication.

The Girlfriend Guide to Life, is a one-stop resource covering all aspects of emotional, physical and mental development in teen girls.

With over 75 per cent of teen girls getting their information about puberty and sex from their friends, and 57 per cent turning to the internet*, Girlfriend Editor Sarah Tarca said it was increasingly important to have the right information available.

"With well-researched and expertly advised articles, Girlfriend Guide to Life will help teenagers navigate through one of the most difficult, change-ridden times of their lives, from a source they can trust," Ms Tarca said.

The special edition magazine provides age-appropriate, evidence-based information including:
- body changes and body image
- relationships with family and friends
- identity
- love, sex and sexual health
- mental health.

Professor Alan McKee, a QUT expert on the media's impact on healthy sexual development, co-edited the magazine based on his team's research into what teenage boys and girls know about their sexual development and how they get that information.

The team found some Australian teenage girls learned about puberty only after their first period had arrived.

"Research has shown that the more education young people receive about sex, the later they wait until they have sex themselves, and the happier they'll be about the decisions they make," said Professor McKee, from QUT's Creative Industries Faculty.

"The average age of first sex in Australia is 16 years old. Compare that to 17.7** in the Netherlands - a country where comprehensive sex education is provided from primary school onwards, and where parents and the media talk more openly about sex.

"Our research found that while sex education from their parents and schools covered the mechanics of sex, teen girls weren't getting enough of the right information about issues like consent, relationship skills, sexual identities, open communication and what is normal in sexual development - that's why we've covered those topics in Girlfriend Guide to Life.

"Girlfriend was mentioned often in our focus groups as a trusted source of information for teens and it was a logical magazine to work with - the editors are experts in understanding how to speak to young women in ways that they can relate to."

Child safety advocate Bravehearts supports the special edition magazine.

"So excited to see this initiative from Girlfriend and QUT! Working in the area of sexual assault prevention, we know how important body confidence and knowledge is in protecting young people from harm," Bravehearts' Research Manager Carol Ronken said.

Ms Tarca said Guide to Life was also a useful talking point for parents who are unsure how to begin conversations about sexual and mental development.

"At Girlfriend, we know having 'the talk' can be awkward and embarrassing for anyone - and Guide to Life aims to make that talk a whole lot easier for both our readers and their parents," she said.

Girlfriend Guide to Life is on sale for three months and is available at selected newsagents, Big W, Coles and Woolworths for a RRP of $14.95.

Girlfriend Guide to Life - a snapshot:
- puberty - what changes to expect
- body images - how the media manipulates images to look 'perfect'
- relationships - tips for getting along with family
- bullying - information to combat all types
- sexual harassment - what it is and where to get help
- boyfriends - why not having one is perfectly OK
- awkward conversation - how to have one effectively and assertively
- depression - how to recognise it and where to get help.

*source: Girlfriend Sex Survey 2012
**source: (Weaver, Heather, Gary Smith, and Susan Kippax. 2005. "School‐based sex education policies and indicators of sexual health among young people: a comparison of the Netherlands, France, Australia and the United States." Sex Education no. 5 (2):171-188)

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Media contact:
Kate Haggman, QUT Media, 07 3138 0358 or
After hours Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901

Professor Alan McKee co-edited the Girlfriend Guide to Life, which draws on the comprehensive findings of his team's research into sexual health communication for teenagers.


Creative Industries Faculty

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    QUT Creative Industries Faculty
    Musk Ave
    Kelvin Grove QLD 4059