Involved Moms Delay Teen Sex
Teens Less Likely to Have Sex if Mom Disapproves
Sept. 4, 2002 -- Moms who have a close relationship with their teens can have a big influence on whether their child becomes sexually active. But new research shows it takes more than just talk.
"Parents say they talk until they're blue in the face, and their kids still don't listen," says researcher Robert Blum, MD, PhD, professor and director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Adolescent Health and Development, in a news release. "Kids will pay attention to their parents' values on sex. But talk alone does not get the message through."
Blum found that teens are less likely to have sex when they perceive that their mothers are against it. But even when the mothers say they strongly disapprove of their teens having sex, only 30% of girls and 45% of boys are aware of their mother's feelings on the issue.
And the communication gap works both ways. When teens say they're sexually active, only about half of their mothers think they are.
The findings are based on the latest results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which includes analysis of interviews with more than 5,000 mothers and teens conducted over a one-year period. The complete report appears in today's issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Researchers say their study shows a number of factors that seem to delay the initiation of sexual activity among teens:
- Young teens and older teenage boys who feel close to their mother and perceive her as warm and caring are more likely to delay sex.
- Girls whose mothers have high education levels and teens whose parents value education are less likely to become sexually active.
- Girls who have mothers who say they frequently talk with the parents of their daughter's friends were less likely initiate sex during the study period.
But the study also found that other factors thought to discourage sexual activity don't always work. For example, teens whose mothers were highly religious were no less likely than other teens to become sexually active.
In addition, the survey showed that mothers are much more inclined to recommend a specific form of birth control to their 14- and 15-year-old sons than to their daughters. But this study didn't show that having such discussions influenced whether a teen started having sex.
"To date, research is mixed on whether speaking to teens about birth control encourages them to become sexually active or not," says Blum. "Either way, speaking about birth control does not appear to have a major impact on kids' initiation of sexual intercourse. But research does show that when parents talk about contraception with their kids and the kids are having sex, [the kids] are more likely to use birth control."