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Talks with Teen About Sex Need to be Ongoing and Two-Sided

Parents Should Have Ongoing Talks With Teens About Sex

For many a parent, having “the conversation” with your child about sex is a one-time event. New research now suggests that when it comes to your teens, one vague and generic conversation about sex is not enough.

Brigham Young University family life professor Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker discovered ongoing communication about sex between parents and their adolescent children benefits the parent-child relationship and leads to safer sexual activity at age 21.

The study appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Our current culture is highly sexualized, so children are learning about sexuality in a fragmented way from an early age,” said Padilla-Walker.

“Research suggests that parents can be an effective means of teaching their children about sexuality in a developmentally appropriate manner, but that does not occur if parents only have a single, uncomfortable, often one-sided talk.”

Padilla-Walker evaluated parent-child communication among 468 14- to 18-year-olds and their mothers, plus 311 of their fathers. She contacted participating families every summer for 10 years and evaluated their level of sexual communication.

Each summer, participants responded to a four-item measure assessing parent-child communication about sexuality and avoiding sexual risk.

Researchers discovered that both teens and their parents reported relatively low levels of sexual communication, though teens reported even lower levels than their parents did. Those levels, for the most part, stayed constant.

“Whether or not parents think they are talking about sexuality often, children are generally reporting low levels of communication,” said Padilla-Walker.

“So parents need to increase sex communication even if they feel they are doing an adequate job.”

An increase in sexual communication between parents and children, she found, can help adolescents feel safe going to their parents with questions and concerns. She also found that ongoing sexual communication resulted in safer sexual activity at 21, a finding that should increase the urgency parents feel to have conversations with their children.

Even if parents don’t anticipate that their children will be sexually active before marriage, said Padilla-Walker, “all children are developing sexually and need continuous and high-quality communication with parents about the feelings they are experiencing.”

Moving forward, Padilla-Walker hopes to explore the quality of conversations parents have with their kids about sex, specifically whether parents are being open and approachable or are using fear tactics and negativity.

“I would like to see an upward trajectory of parent-child communication as children age,” she said.

“Parents should talk frequently with their children about many aspects of sexuality in a way that helps the child to feel comfortable and heard, but never shamed.”

Source: Brigham Young University

Parents Should Have Ongoing Talks With Teens About Sex

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Parents Should Have Ongoing Talks With Teens About Sex. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/11/15/talks-with-teen-about-sex-need-to-be-ongoing-and-two-sided/139187.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 15 Nov 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Nov 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.