New York Times 4 November 2015
The “sex talk” isn’t easy for parents, but new research shows that adolescents who have talked to their parents about sex are more likely to use condoms and birth control.
The finding stems from a large analysis of adolescent health research, based on more than 50 studies involving 25,314 teens over the course of 30 years. The link between parental communication and safer sex practices, while modest overall, is strongest for girls and for teens who talked with their mothers, according to the research, published online Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
“The take home message is that parents do matter, and these conversations do matter,” said Laura Widman, lead author of the new paper and an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She noted the link is an association, and the studies don’t prove that communication with parents promotes more responsible behavior.
Parents don’t necessarily need to have a lot of sophisticated knowledge or technical information about sex. “Just having the conversation is important,” she said. “That’s the good news.”
Nearly half of high school students have had sexual intercourse, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 60 percent of high school students surveyed who have had sex said they used a condom when they last had sex, but 14 percent of sexually active teens said they did not use any birth control the last time they had intercourse, according to the C.D.C. report.
While parents may worry that talking about sex suggests tacit approval, studies have found that children who are comfortable talking about sex are actually more likely to delay sexual activity and be older when they first have intercourse.
“Parents fear that if they bring these issues up, they’re signaling that it’s okay to have sex, but that’s completely untrue – we know that parents who bring it up, and bring it up regularly, their kids are least likely to have sex,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, a professor of social work at the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and author of an editorial about the research.