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Parents’ Communication with Adolescents About Sexual Behavior: A Missed Opportunity for Prevention?

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Abstract

Parents may wait to talk to their teens about sexuality until they believe their child is in a romantic relationship. To examine this, telephone surveys were conducted with 1069 parents of adolescents. Measures assessed parents’ perception of teens’ romantic involvement and parent-child communication about several sexuality topics. Multivariable regression models determined the odds of talking about each topic among parents who reported their teen had been in a romantic relationship compared to those who did not. Most parents reported talking at least a moderate amount about some sex-related topic. Parents who believed their teen had been romantically involved were more likely to have discussed most of the topics examined here (ORs=1.64 – 2.56). For some topics, associations were more pronounced among parents of younger teens. Findings suggest that parents may miss important opportunities to influence behavior, and should initiate conversations about sexuality before they believe their child to be romantically involved.

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Acknowledgements

Sources of Support: (1) grant #U48/CCU513331, (Prevention Research Center, PI: MD Resnick), from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; (2) Project T30 MC 00021-11 0 (Center for Adolescent Nursing, Director: LH Bearinger) from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Title V, Social Security Act), Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Resources; and (3) grant #FPTPA50031 (Region V Family Planning Program, Director: C Swain), Title X Family Planning Program.

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Correspondence to Marla E. Eisenberg.

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Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota. She received her Sc.D. in Social Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health. Her major research interests are the social influences on high risk health behaviors among adolescents.

Associate Professor with the School of Nursing and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. She received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on on family, peer, and individual-level influences on adolescents’ sexual behaviors and violence involvement. She is also Deputy Director of the Healthy Youth Development Prevention Research Center, which conducts research and disseminates actionable knowledge that promotes healthy youth development and reduces health disparities among young people.

Professor and Director of the Center for Adolescent Nursing at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Her major research interests focus on understanding key risk and protective factors in adolescence, particularly among vulnerable populations of youth.

President of Midwestern Professional Educational and Research Services, Inc., a DHHS funded non-profit agency serving as a Title X Regional Training Center. She received her Masters in Psychology from Miami University and worked for 12 years in flight psychophysiology before moving into public health. Her primary research interests center on identifying barriers that limit adolescent and low income population’s access to publicly funded reproductive health care services.

Professor and Director of the Healthy Youth Development Prevention Research Center at the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics. He received his Ph.D. in Health Services Research and Policy from the University of Minnesota. His major research interests are understanding risk and protective factors in the lives of young people, particularly around issues of reproductive health, pregnancy, and violence.

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Eisenberg, M.E., Sieving, R.E., Bearinger, L.H. et al. Parents’ Communication with Adolescents About Sexual Behavior: A Missed Opportunity for Prevention?. J Youth Adolescence 35, 893–902 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-006-9093-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-006-9093-y

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