BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Having the sex talk with your teenager might be uncomfortable, but it turns out the results are encouraging. A new study found that those teenagers who had “the birds and bees” talk before they became sexually active were more likely to wait to have sex, and less likely to do it unprotected when the right time came along.
Following a thorough review of the studies conducted in the past 30 years, North Carolina State University researchers saw a small, yet positive, effect of parental talks regarding safe sex behaviors, such as birth control and condoms.
Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the research showed that in spite of the general uncomfortableness that surrounds the sex talk, parental advice has a larger impact than the other sources with an opinion on the topic. Assistant professor Laura Widman with the North Carolina State University says explaining sex to teens is “a critical component of helping teens make safe and healthy decisions.”
Results are based on 52 smaller studies culling data from roughly 25,000 adolescents; the average age of the participants was 15.2 years. The studies were focused on finding out whether the teens had the talk with the mother or the father and what were the topics covered, aiming to determine the effects of sex talks in regard to later use of contraceptives.
Researchers also found the talk had stronger effects in girls than boys, and that talks with the mother are significantly more effective than talks with fathers. In fact, dads didn’t seem to have such an influence on instilling safer sex practices in the teenagers’ minds.
The sex talk made a difference of about 10 percent between those who had it and those who didn’t, a percentage that measures the teenagers’ tendency to use contraceptives. Previous research shows that parents have indeed a great responsibility in shaping the sexual behavior of their teens, but the sex talks usually revolve around delaying adolescent sexual debut, and not on teaching about contraceptive use.
Researchers wrote in an editorial accompanying the study that parental advice may have an even larger impact on teens if the conversations are more focused on having sex responsibly, rather than just elucidating the mystery of sex itself.
Parents and adolescents do have to talk about “general sex topics,” the researchers added, but they also need to be specific about it, particularly in regard to the use of contraceptives and condoms. These are the talks that are actually predictive in shaping these behaviors.
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