Parents urged to go beyond ‘big talk’ about sex

Reuters Mon Mar 3, 2008
Parents should consider having repeated discussions with their children about many aspects of sex instead of one “big talk” on impersonal topics linked to sexuality such as puberty, researchers said on Monday. “Parents who take a checklist approach to broadening their sexual discussion with their children are unlikely to have as great an influence … as parents who introduce new sexual topics and then develop them through repeated discussions,” said their report published in the journal Pediatrics. The study, entitled “Beyond the ‘Big Talk,'” used written surveys given to 312 children in Southern California aged 11 to 15 to assess how frequent and candid their conversations were with their parents about sex.

The more parents talked with their children, the closer their relationships, wrote researchers Steven Martino and colleagues at the Rand Corporation. The relationships also benefited when the discussions moved beyond “safe” or impersonal subjects such as puberty, reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases to more private topics such as masturbation and how sex feels. The surveys looked at children’s attitudes toward their parents over a one-year period and asked about how many of 22 sexual topics were discussed. Mothers tended to discuss twice as many sexual topics with their children — 12 — as fathers did, the study said. The report cited earlier studies that showed children who were communicated with were more likely to delay intercourse and, if they chose to have sex, to use contraception and have fewer partners.
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