New survey reveals surprising insights into parental attitudes toward teenage sexual behavior

08/10/04

Parents share top concerns about their high schoolers

Blue Springs, MO – August 11, 2004 – As an estimated four million American children make the transition from junior high/middle school to high school this fall, a new national survey conducted by the Society for Adolescent Medicine (SAM) reveals parents' primary concerns as they ready their teenagers for the new school year. Not surprisingly, most parents (67 percent) reported that, to them, academics were the most important aspect of their adolescent's life. While nearly 60 percent of parents also reported they were concerned about the consequences of adolescent sexual behavior, the majority (84 percent) did not believe their own child was sexually active. Yet, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that almost one-half* of ninth through 12th-graders have had sex, suggesting that parents may be hesitant to acknowledge that their teen could be sexually active and exposed to harmful diseases. To help raise awareness about the importance of adolescent health – including sexual health – SAM is launching a national campaign today to help educate parents on how to protect their teens from various health risks including hepatitis B.

"Hepatitis B, a highly contagious disease, is one of the diseases highschoolers could be exposed to through sexual contact, tattooing, body piercings, or contact sports," said Dr. Leslie Walker, director of the Section for Adolescent Medicine at Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C. "While routine vaccination for hepatitis B for infants has occurred since 1991, many teens born prior to this date may have been missed. As such, SAM recommends that all teens be vaccinated against hepatitis B to catch up and ensure they are protected."

*46.7% of ninth through 12th-graders in public and private schools across the United States. CDC Department of Health and Human Services, National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2003.

When it comes to communication, most parents today (90 percent) reported that they are talking to their adolescents about sexual behavior and more than half (62 percent) reported feeling extremely or very comfortable doing so. Interestingly, on average, parents began these conversations about sexual behavior when their adolescents were about 12 years old. Results from the survey also found that three out of four parents reportedly had personally discussed sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with their teens. Not surprisingly, HIV/AIDS was the most common topic (88 percent) in those discussions. While it is good news that parents discussed STIs with their adolescents, more than half (54 percent) did not talk about hepatitis B, a disease that can be 100 times more contagious than HIV.

About Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening, incurable, viral liver disease. More than one million Americans are chronically infected with the disease. It is spread by an exchange of blood or bodily fluids, such as engaging in sexual activity, from contaminated needles used in tattooing or body piercing or being exposed to an open wound during contact sports. It can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death, in some cases. According to the survey, although more than 90 percent of parents were aware of hepatitis B, most of these parents (80 percent) were not very familiar with the disease, its effects and modes of transmission. Of those aware of the disease, 42 percent did not know it can be deadly and more than one third (37 percent) were unaware there is a vaccine available to prevent it.

SAM Provides Help to Enhance the Parent-Adolescent Relationship

"The teen-parent relationship is ever evolving and the transition through the teen years can be particularly tough on both adolescents and their parents," said Vaughn I. Rickert, Psy.D., Immediate Past President, Society for Adolescent Medicine. "While children are young, parents feel confident that they have control over their health and well-being. As the child enters his or her teen years, parents may feel less connected and unaware of all he or she is doing. As such, it is important for parents to have a dialogue with their adolescent regularly to ensure their teen remains healthy and happy through the high school years."

To help parents navigate their adolescents' health and well-being during their teen years, SAM is providing a free brochure entitled Health Guide for America's Teens. Available online at www.adolescenthealth.org, the brochure includes information on potential health and lifestyle risks facing teens as well as warning signs and safety issues related to sex, drugs, alcohol and other potentially harmful activities. The guide also offers tips to teens on how to talk to a parent, friend or trusted adult about health concerns and includes tools to help track health screenings and exams. While Health Guide for America's Teen is primarily for adolescents, parents can benefit from it too.

About the Society for Adolescent Medicine

The Society for Adolescent Medicine founded in 1968, is the multidisciplinary professional healthcare organization in the United States exclusively committed to improving the physical and psychological health and well-being of adolescents. Its principal activities include the development, synthesis and dissemination of scientific and scholarly knowledge unique to the health needs of adolescents; professional development of students, trainees, and practicing clinicians around adolescent health; as well as advocating on behalf of adolescents.

Advocacy efforts are supported through local, state and national public and private efforts to develop comprehensive, acute, chronic and preventative health services for youth. The Society publishes and disseminates scholarly information related to adolescent health through its peer-reviewed monthly Journal of Adolescent Health. For more information, log on to www.adolescenthealth.org.

About the Survey

Data was collected online between June 11, 2004 - June 17, 2004, with a nationally representative sample of 1,622 parents (both mothers and fathers) of adolescents of high school age (14-18 years). In addition, an augment was conducted to boost sample sizes in Texas and Ohio to n=275 and n=299, respectively. A third augment of interviews was conducted to n=75 in the bordering cities between Kansas and Missouri. The survey was funded by GlaxoSmithKline.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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