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Unsupervised Teens at Risk for STDs

Involved Parents Protect Against Sexually Transmitted Diseases
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Feb. 10, 2003 -- Teenage girls who say their parents don't keep a watchful eye on them are much more likely to become infected with common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia. A new study shows that black girls who say they have low levels of parental supervision were more than twice as likely to get an STD than their peers who felt they were more closely monitored.

Researchers say that black adolescent girls suffer disproportionately from STDs, including HIV, than others, and the results suggest that increasing parental involvement may be a promising approach in reducing sexually transmitted diseases.

The study, published in the February issue of The Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, involved 217 black females aged 14 to 18 who were enrolled in another study looking at the effects of an HIV prevention program. Researchers collected vaginal swabs from the girls at six-month intervals for 18 months and screened the samples for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis.

At the start of the study, 36.5% of the girls said they received only infrequent monitoring from their parents, and researchers found these teens were significantly more likely to test positive for at least one STD during the 18-month study.

They found the unsupervised girls were between 1.8 and 2.4 times more likely to acquire chlamydia or trichomoniasis during the study than girls who perceived higher levels of parental supervision. For example, nearly half of the teens who reported low levels of parental supervision tested positive for chlamydia at least once during the study compared with only about a third of the other girls.

Researcher Richard A. Crosby, PhD, of the Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, and colleagues say it's the first time that the perception of lack of parental involvement predicted an increased risk of STDs among teenage girls and was confirmed with tests. Previous studies have also shown the female adolescents are more likely to engage in sexual activity if they feel their parents aren't monitoring them closely.

Researchers say their findings suggest that more efforts are needed to involve parents in community- and clinic-based STD prevention programs.

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