Pappa Don’t Preach: Talking To Your Teens About Sex
July 14, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Parenting, Teens · Permalink

A counterintuitive and interesting study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology about what helps and what hurts in talking to your teens about sex. Conversations warning about the possibility of contracting an STD and disapproving of sex in general, were actually correlated with higher levels of sexual initiation, unprotected sex, and sexually transmitted infections. It seems that the largest influence for safer sexual behavior was the teen’s positive perception of the relationship with their parents, not specific information.

The investigators found that higher levels of adolescent independence and lower levels of parent-adolescent relationship quality significantly predicted lower levels of condom use and this held especially true for younger adolescents.  Additionally, the teens that had lower levels of condom use could be predicted by having parents that disapproved of teen sexual activity.  So the more time the teen had unsupervised, the lesser the quality of his/her relationship with parents, and the more the parents outwardly disapproved of sex, the more likely their teen was to have unprotected sex.

Almost 80% of the adolescents that reported being abstinent during the beginning of the study reported the same a year later.  What predicted sexual activity for the remaining 20%?  Some of the strongest predictors were low parent-child relationship quality, higher levels of parent disapproval of sex, and parents’ talks about sexual costs such as STIs.  That’s right.  The parents that disapproved of sex and emphasized sexual risk had a higher likelihood of having a sexually active teen.

The best route for parents when it comes to their teens and sex is to focus less on the specific behavior/consequences and instead, spend more time ensuring there is a healthy relationship that allows for open communication.

Source:
Deptula, D., Henry, D., & Schoeny, M. (2010). How can parents make a difference? Longitudinal associations with adolescent sexual behavior. Journal of Family Psychology, 24 (6), 731-739 DOI: 10.1037/a0021760

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