The Parental Factor in Teen Sex Outcomes

Teens who have a good relationship with their parents are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Also, when parents send a clear message to their youth that they disapprove of teen sexual activity and when they closely monitor teen’s behavior, youth are more likely to delay sexual activity.

  • Delayed Sexual Activity. Youths who report good relationships with their mothers and who feel their mothers disapprove of their having sex, are more likely to delay sexual activity. Youths who reported both the highest level of mothers’ disapproval of their being sexually active and the highest level of quality of relationship with their mothers, were more than 17 times less likely to be sexually active in the 12 months after they were surveyed than peers who reported the lowest levels of mothers’ disapproval and motheradolescent relationship.1
  • Teen Pregnancy. Adolescent girls who feel that their mothers highly disapprove of their having sex and have a good relationship with their mothers are less likely to become pregnant. Youths who reported both the highest level of mothers’ disapproval of their being sexually active and the highest level of quality relationship with their mothers, were more than 13 times less likely to become pregnant within the 12 months after they were surveyed than peers who reported the lowest levels of mothers’ disapproval and quality of relationship with their mothers.2
  • Number of Sexual Partners. The more sexually liberal adolescents perceive their mothers to be, the more sexual partners youth tend to have. Data based on a nationally representative sample showed that youth between age15 and 18 who perceived that their mothers hold more liberal views on teen sexual activity have more sexual partners than peers who believe that their mothers hold less liberal views on teen sex. 3
  • Sexually Activity. Teen girls who say they have a close relationship with their fathers are less likely to become sexually active. Among a sample of adolescent virgins from intact, two- parent families, females who reported having a close relationship with their father during the initial interview were less likely to report having engaged in sexual intercourse during a follow-up interview one year later, compared to similar females who did not report having a close relationship with their father.4
  • Abstinence. Adolescents whose parents discuss what is right and wrong in sexual behavior are more likely to remain abstinent. Youths whose parents talked to them about what is right and wrong in sexual behavior were significantly more likely to remain abstinent than peers whose parents did not.5
  • Sexual Activity and Number of Sexual Partners. In spite of peers’ behavior, adolescents who engage in discussions with their parents about sex are less likely to be sexually active or have fewer partners. Though perceiving that peers were sexually active and having sexually active friends increased the likelihood that an adolescent would be sexually active and would have a greater number of sexual partners, parent-adolescent discussion about initiating sex decreased the effects of perceived peer norms.6
  • Delayed Sexual Activity. Adolescent girls whose mothers communicate with their friends’ parents tend to become sexually active at a later age. Among 14- and 15-year-old girls, mothers’ involvement and conversation with their daughters’ friends’ parents was linked to a delay in their daughters’ becoming sexually active. Mother’s satisfaction with the mother-daughter relationship, as well as mother’s disapproval of sexual activity, were also linked to delayed sexual activity for teenage girls. 7
  • Sexual Risk Taking. Teens who are closely monitored by their parents are less likely to take risks regarding sexual behavior. Compared with peers who were not closely monitored by their parents (e.g., knowing where teens are after school, knowing who teens are with), adolescents who were closely monitored by their parents took fewer risks in sexual behavior (i.e. had only one partner and used condoms).8
  • Sexual Intercourse. Adolescents whose parents set clear rules are less likely to have sexual intercourse. Compared with teens age 13 to 17 whose parents did not set clear rules about sexual activity, youth whose parents did set clear rules were about one-half as likely to have had sexual intercourse.9
  • Initiation of Sexual Activity. Teens whose parents set limits on their television viewing or watch television with them are less likely to initiate sexual activity. The more often parents watched television with their teens and the more they limited television viewing–such as limiting the amount, content, and checking to see what their teen is watching–the less likely adolescents were to have sex.10

Footnotes

  1. Patricia J. Dittus and James Jaccard, “Adolescents’ Perceptions of Maternal Disapproval of Sex: Relationship to Sexual Outcomes,” Journal of Adolescent Health 26, No. 4 (April 2000): 268-278.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Laura Fingerson, “Do Mothers’ Opinions Matter in Teen’ Sexual Activity?” Journal of Family Issues 26, No. 7 (October 2005): 947-974.
  4. Mark D. Regnerus and Laura B. Luchies, “The Parent-Child Relationship and Opportunities for Adolescents’ First Sex,” Journal of Family Issues 7, No. 2 (February 2006): 159-183.
  5. Cherly B. Aspy, Sara K. Vesely, Roy F. Oman, Sharon Rodine, LaDonna Marshall, and Ken McLeroy, “Parental Communication and Youth Sexual Behaviour, ” Journal of Adolescence 30, No. 7 (July/August 2007): 449-466.
  6. Daniel J. Whitaker and Kim S. Miller, “Parent-Adolescent Discussions About Sex and Condoms: Impact on Peer Influences of Sexual Risk Behavior,” Journal of Adolescent Research 15, No. 2 (March 2000): 251-273.
  7. Clea McNeely, Marcia L. Shew, Trisha Beuhring, Renee Sieving, Brent C. Miller, and Robert William Blum, “Mothers’ Influence on the Timing of First Sex Among 14- and 15-Year Olds,” Journal of Adolescent Health 31, (September 2002): 256-265.
  8. Angela J. Huebner and Laurie W. Howell, “Examining the Relationship Between Adolescent Sexual Risk-Taking and Perceptions of Monitoring, Communication, and Parenting Styles,” Journal of Adolescent Health 33, No. 2 (August 2003): 71-78.
  9. Aspy, “Parental Communication,” 449-466.
  10. Melina Bersamin, Michael Todd, Deborah A. Fisher, Douglas L. Hill, Joel W. Grube, and Samantha Walker, “Parenting Practices and Adolescent Sexual Behavior: A Longitudinal Study,” Journal of Marriage and Family 70, No. 1 (February 2008): 97-112.