A recent study has shown that when parents aren’t reluctant to have the “birds and bees talk” about sexual relationships with their children, this results in a safer sex behavior among teens later on.
Research was conducted by a team of experts led by Laura Widman, assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh.
A total of 52 studies, spanning across 30 years and including over 25,000 teenagers, were reviewed, in order to assess the impact of sex talks from parents on the kids’ sexual practices. The results were published on Monday, November 2, in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
It was determined that providing information straightforwardly and honestly about sex makes teenagers less likely to engage in risky behavior. It also makes them more willing to wait for the right partner before they engage in sex for the very first time.
This association was especially significant for girls, or for adolescents who had received such talks from their mothers.
Researchers also discovered that following communication with their parents regarding sexual intercourse, girls were more likely than boys to use birth control methods such as condoms.
It may be that parents tend to insist on the negative consequences resulting from unprotected sex, such as unintended pregnancies, which resonate much more strongly with female teens.
“Communicating about sex can be uncomfortable for both parents and teens, but these conversations are a critical component of helping teens make safe and healthy decisions”, explained study author Laura Widman.
Given that sexual education among male adolescents doesn’t seem to be as effective, study authors believe that messages transmitted to boys should be personalized more, with a greater focus on the implications of fatherhood.
Also, the importance of sex talk should be treated more seriously, by trying to instill positive family values and communicating with total openness and sincerity, instead of lecturing or promoting fear.
Another essential aspect to be highlighted when having these talks should be that of consent between partners before and during sexual intercourse, especially nowadays when date rapes and other types of sexual assault are so frequent.
At present, around 47% of US adolescents have had sex, and 34% are sexually active, but 13.7% of them admit to not having used any contraceptive during their most recent sexual encounter.
Sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, HPV or HIV are normally easily preventable by practicing abstinence or safer sex, but they remain widespread.
Similarly, teen pregnancy rates in the United States are significantly higher than in other developed countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although in 2013 a number of 273,105 babies were born to girls aged 15-19 years, it must be noted that this represents a decrease of 10% since 2012, probably because fewer teens are sexually active or they now use contraceptive methods more frequently.
Study authors believe that further efforts should be taken to educate teenagers about the consequences of their sexual practices, so that they can make informed decisions without putting their health or future at risk.
Moreover, they point out that having such conversations doesn’t mean condoning the practice of becoming sexually active at an early age.
On the contrary, adolescents who have had these discussions with their parents tend to be more patient and cautious, and they don’t have sexual intercourse as early as others who have been less informed.
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