October 2, 2012
A new nationwide survey released today shows that most parents and teens talk about sex, teens are less comfortable than their parents having these conversations, and parents need to talk more about how their teens can prevent pregnancy and STDs. The survey, which is one of the first to question a large number of parents and teens from the same households, was commissioned by Planned Parenthood in collaboration with the NYU Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) and Family Circle magazine.
Half of all teens feel uncomfortable talking with their parents about sex compared to just 19 percent of parents who feel uncomfortable talking with their teens, according to the survey, which is the first to reveal that parents are much more at ease than their teens when it comes to discussing sex.
Using a nationally representative sample and conducted by GfK Custom Research, LLC, the survey put questions to more than 2,000 parents and teens from the same households. The findings offer deep insight into parent and teen communication about sex and provide a roadmap for how they can communicate more effectively, ultimately helping improve young people’s sexual health.
“Parents are very concerned with keeping their teens safe and healthy, and talking with their teens about sex, setting clear expectations about behaviors, and providing teens with the information they need to prevent pregnancy and STDs are a critical part of those efforts,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, co-director of CLAFH and a professor at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. “These survey results show that parents also overwhelmingly support comprehensive sex education as a tool for helping to keep their teens safe and healthy.”
The report finds that while 42 percent of parents say they’ve talked to their teens “many times” about how to say no to sex, only 27 percent of teens agree. In fact, 34 percent of teens say they’ve “never” or “only once” talked with their mom or dad about how to delay sex. Moreover, only small percentages of teens said they plan to discuss these and other sexuality-related topics with their parents in the future. This resistance is likely a result of teens’ discomfort discussing these topics. The results also indicate that parents need to do a better job tackling more-challenging topics, including those involving how teens can act to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“This survey shows that parents and teens have very different perceptions about how often they’re talking about sex and what’s being said during those talks,” said Leslie Kantor, vice president of Education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Parents think they’re giving nuanced advice, but their teens are just hearing directives. We’re offering tips that can help parents talk with their teens in a way that resonates and helps them make smart choices about relationships and sex.”
The report is being unveiled in tandem with October’s Let’s Talk Month, an annual awareness-raising effort aimed at getting parents and teens talking about sex and providing parents with tools for making these conversations easier and more effective.
CLAFH is making available its Families Talking Together family intervention program, an evidence-informed, parent-adolescent communication program designed to support parent-teen communication, foster effective parental supervision of teens, and build stronger parent-adolescent relationships. Families Talking Together is free and available in English and Spanish, and offers versions tailored to African-American and Latino families. To get a copy, please go to www.clafh.org/resources-for-parents/parent-materials.
To interview Guilamo-Ramos, please contact Elizabeth Jenkins by calling 212.998.5956 - or by email at elizabeth.jenkins(at)nyu.edu.
About The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health:
The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at the NYU Silver School of Social Work investigates the role of parents in shaping the development and well-being of adolescents. Our research addresses key issues among Latino and other families and seeks to foster the development and evaluation of evidence-based interventions to prevent and reduce problem behaviors among youth. www.clafh.org