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November 12, 2009
 
Parents Matter: The Role of Parents in Teens' Decisions about Sex

Positive parent-teen relationships, high parental awareness and monitoring of whom their children are with, and family dinner routines are all linked to delayed sex among teens, according to a new Child Trends research brief.  The brief, Parents Matter: The Role of Parents in Teens' Decisions about Sex, explores how parenting practices that occur before adolescents have had sexual intercourse are associated with the probability of first sex by age 16.  
 
Among the findings:


  • Better parent-adolescent relationships are associated with reduced risk of early sexual experience among teen girls.
    • Teen girls who reported high relationship quality with both parents were less likely to have sex at an early age (22%), compared with teen girls who reported low relationship quality with both parents (37 percent).
    • This finding holds true for teen girls' relationships with their mothers and fathers separately, but no significant association was found for teen boys
  • Teen boys who eat dinner with their family every day have a lower probability of having sex before age 16 (31%), compared with those who eat dinner with their family four days a week or less (37%).  No significant association was found for teen girls on this measure.
  • Adolescents whose parents are more aware of whom they are with when not at home are less likely to have sex by age 16.  For example, only 22% of girls who reported that their parents knew "everything" about whom they were with when they were not home had first sex before age 16, compared with 43% who reported their parents knew little or nothing.
"These findings highlight the importance of parents in adolescents' lives," said study co-author Jennifer Manlove, Ph.D.  "Parents can be involved beyond having the 'sex talk' with their adolescents - by fostering strong relationships, developing family routines such as eating dinner together regularly, and being aware of where their children are when they are not at home."
 
This study is based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, sponsored and directed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.