The University of Southampton

PSYC3015 Social and Psychological Approaches to Understanding Sexual Health

Module Overview



The aims of this course are: 

1. to introduce you to some theoretical and methodological issues concerning research on sexual health;

2. to encourage critical evaluation of published material; and

3. to consider the relevance of social and psychological approaches to policy formulation.


Graduate Attributes

This module will help you to develop graduate attributes, including:

  • academic attributes – ability to critically appraise knowledge claims based on qualitative and quantitative methods; and
  • communication skills – ability to communicate research designs and findings, using evidence to illustrate and develop an argument.


Employability Skills


This module will help you develop the following employability skills:

  • team working - respecting others, co-operating, negotiating, contributing to discussions, and awareness of interdependence with others;
  • communication and literacy – application of literacy, ability to produce clear, structured written work and oral literacy – including listening and questioning;
  • problem solving– analysing facts, opinions, values and situations and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions; and
  • application of information technology – basic IT skills, including familiarity with word processing, presentation programmes, file management and use of internet search engines.

Aims and Objectives

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • A. be familiar with some theoretical and methodological issues concerning research on sexual health

Transferable and Generic

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to:

  • B. be able critically to evaluate published and unpublished material
  • C. be able to consider the relevance of social and psychological approaches to policy formulation
  • D. be able to communicate ideas clearly and succinctly and without bias


Summary of syllabus content

In the case of sexual conduct, there is concern over the threat of HIV/AIDS and other STIs globally, as well as the high UK rates of teenage conceptions. Much research has been carried out in this field over the past few years, some of it in this department. In this course, emphasis is given to lessons learned from the research and how these may be applied in intervention programmes and policy development of various kinds.


Topics covered include:

  • Methods in sexual health research
  • Theoretical approaches to understanding sexual risk
  • Early sexual conduct and contraception use
  • Teenage conception and abortion
  • Emerging forms of and communication and sexual relationships
  • Problems and pleasure
  • STIs and HIV/AIDS in richer and poorer countries
  • Sex and relationships education in and out of school
  • Pornography and policies

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Sessions involve a combination of small-group student presentations and tutor-guided discussion; sessions are held with groups to help prepare the presentation material. Other linked small groups produce some follow up work based on the topic of the week's session; these may include a health promotion booklet, leaflet, video, etc. and need to be justified on theoretical and/or empirical grounds. Students are enouraged throughout to enhance the reading list provided with their own searches and reading additional material, as well as paying close attention to media coverage of some of the issues covered.

Resources and reading list

There is no set text for this course. Books, reports and journal articles are indicated on weekly reading lists as starting points, but students are encouraged to search for further material as appropriate.

A couple of useful books for some of the issues covered are:

Burtney, E. & Duffy, M. (Eds.) (2004). Young people and sexual health: individual, social and policy contexts. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wellings, K., Mitchell, K., & Collumbien, M. (Eds.) (2012). Sexual health: A public health perspective. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.


Assessment methods

Assessment Method Hours % contribution to final mark Feedback
Coursework Presentation and/or Follow-up coursework   30% Group written feedback is provided near the end of the semester once all coursework has been submitted.
Other Participation credits   1%
Exam 2 hour(s) 69%

Assessment will be by a piece of coursework (either the presentation or the follow up work, depending on the group students are assigned to). The coursework accounts for 30% of the seminar marks, while the final exam accounts for the remaining 69% of the mark. Details of the coursework will be given at the start of the course. Research participation counts for 1%.

Referral Method: By examination, with the original coursework mark being carried forward


Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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