Skip to content

Health & Sex

Font Size

Where Do Kids Learn About Sex?

Birds, Bees, and Teens
By
WebMD Feature

June 11, 2001 -- Which factors matter most to teens deciding whether to become sexually active? Peer pressure? Media images? Education? Religious background? All play a role, but new research suggests parents may have the most influence of all.

 

Recommended Related to Sex & Relationships

Not Tonight, Honey

By Sarah Mahoney You’ve Said It. You’ve Heard It. How To Put That Excuse To Bed—And Get Back In The Mood Be honest. How many times have you turned down sex this month? Even the best marriages have sexual cold fronts and everyday problems—like a crushing work deadline, a sick parent, or an acting-out teen—that can put the chill on romance. But when sex evasion turns into a daily habit, marriage can become an arctic zone. After all, there's room for only so many nights of "Do we...

Read the Not Tonight, Honey article > >

You may think they're tuning you out when the talk turns to birds and bees, but they're not, according to two studies released in April by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (NCPTP) that reinforce the role of parental advice and role-modeling in determining the sexual behavior of teens. In those studies, more teens, 38%, pointed to their parents as the biggest influence on their sexual behavior -- more than friends, the media, educators, siblings, or religious organizations.

 

In recognition of this, the organization urges parents to engage their children "early and often in discussions of sex, love, relationships, and values."

 

"A lot of parents wonder when to have 'the talk' with their kids," says Ingrid Sanden of NCPTP. "The answer is never. You have to create an environment where your kids feel comfortable coming to you when they need answers, and that means keeping things open from the time your kids are old enough to understand."

 

Both mom and dad need to start the dialogue early and keep the lines of communication open, she says. Many parents who are otherwise fearless when it comes to keeping their children safe become cringing, tongue-tied cowards at the thought of talking to them about sex. But it may be one of the most important steps they can take to protect them.

 

Parents should also establish rules and standards of expected behavior, Sanden says. They should discourage frequent and steady dating among younger teens, take a strong stand against a daughter dating a significantly older boy or a son dating a much younger girl, and emphasize the value of education.

 

"Parents are really important in forming their kids' values," Sanden says. "It is strange to even have to say that, but so many parents feel that they are powerless, especially with teens."

One Million Teen Pregnancies Each Year

Although teen pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S. declined significantly during the 1990s, approximately 1 million American teenage girls still get pregnant each year. That is by far the highest rate of teen pregnancies of any industrialized nation -- and eight out of 10 are unplanned, according to NCPTP figures.

 

After rising 23% between 1972 and 1990, pregnancies among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 declined 17% between 1990 and 1996. The teen birth rate dropped by 20% between 1991 and 1999, to approximately 50 births per 1,000 young women.

 

So is the drop in teen pregnancies due to fewer adolescents having sex or to better contraception use among those who are sexually active?

Today on WebMD

couple not communicating
How to tell when you're in one.
couple face to face
Get your love life back on track.
 
couple having an argument
Turn spats into solutions
couple in argument
When to call it quits.
 
Life Cycle of a Penis
Article
HIV Myth Facts
Slideshow
 
How Healthy is Your Sex Life
Quiz
Couple in bed
Video
 
6 Tips For Teens
Article
Close-up of young man
Article
 
screening tests for men
Slideshow
HPV Vaccine Future
Article