Adolescents in Panama face multiple challenges to their sexual health, rights and well-being such as high rates of teenage pregnancy (∼30% of all pregnancies), increased HIV infections and sexual violence. In the absence of sufficient evidence-based data and an ongoing debate in Panamanian society about how to approach adolescents’ health problems, the aim of this qualitative study was to explore the perceptions and attitudes of different societal actors, namely governmental employees, NGO employees, academics, members from religious groups, teachers and parents. We conducted in-depth interviews (N = 34) which focused on the behavioural and environmental factors considered to influence adolescents’ decision making with regard to love, friendships and family relations. Furthermore, we explored how these stakeholders viewed the role of the education system, and the potential of including social–emotional learning (SEL) in the curriculum to provide skills and capacities, which could encourage adolescents to make better decisions and improve their well-being, in general but also in the context of sexual behaviours. Analysis revealed five central themes, i.e. perceptions towards gender roles and equality, adolescents’ love (sexual) relationships, capacity needs regarding prevention of risk behaviours and the role of education, comprehensive sexuality education in schools and the potentiality of SEL in the education system. The findings of the study can enhance understanding on the views of stakeholders regarding the factors influencing adolescents’ decision making, as well as regarding the possibilities of introducing SEL in the Panamanian educational curriculum.
- SEXUAL INITIATION