03 August 2019

What happens when parents talk to kids frankly about sex?

According to a recent study, early discussions with kids about sex won't encourage them to become sexually active at a younger age.

Parents who worry about discussing sex with their kids can relax: New research shows it leads teens to adopt safer practices and doesn't make them more likely to become sexually active.

That's the upshot of an analysis of 31 studies on the effectiveness of parent-based sexual health interventions. The research included nearly 12 500 9- to 18-year-olds.

Variables that make sense

These interventions work with parents, and often their children, in areas such as communicating about sex, providing sexual health information, and encouraging safe sex.

One finding was that teens whose parents participated in an intervention were more likely to use condoms.

Certain types of interventions had a greater effect in this regard than others: those aimed at children 14 and younger; those designed for black or Hispanic youth; those that targeted parents and children equally; and those that lasted 10 hours or more.

"These are variables that make sense intuitively: reaching kids when they're younger and, often, more willing to listen; involving both parents and adolescents; spending more time on the subject matter – none of those are particularly surprising," said study first author Laura Widman. She's an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh.

Valuable features

Her team also found that the interventions didn't affect the age at which children became sexually active.

"In other words, the kids who were taught about sexual health did not become sexually active any earlier than kids who were not part of the interventions – but kids who were part of the interventions were more likely to use condoms when they did become sexually active," Widman said in a university news release.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

"This highlights the value of parent-based interventions, and makes clear that certain features are especially valuable when developing interventions," study co-author Reina Evans said in the news release. She's a doctoral student at NCSU.

Image credit: iStock




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