Interventions to Improve Parental Communication About Sex

Adolescent sexual behavior has multiple public health consequences. Half the sexually transmitted diseases diagnosed each year and 750,000 pregnancies, 80 percent of which are unintended, occur in adolescents.

Parents who talk to their kids about sex can have a positive impact on delaying sexual initiation and increasing the use of condoms and contraception. Dozens of interventions for improving parental communication about sex have been developed. But how effective are the different approaches?

Researchers looked at studies about improving parental communication published in peer-review journals between 1980 and 2010. The data they gleaned from the articles suggest that parent–adolescent communication interventions have some targeted effects. Parents who participated noted improvements in the frequency, quality, intentions, comfort and self-efficacy for communicating with their adolescents. Adolescents whose parents listened more than they talked, asked questions and behaved in a non-judgmental way reported greater comfort discussing sex with their parents.

The researchers suggest that measures for assessing parental communications be standardized in order to compare the effectiveness of various interventions. “Given that parental communication is associated with positive effects on adolescent sexual behavior, these interventions may represent a valuable tool for improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health,” they conclude.