Balanced Parenting and Safer Sexuality among Teens

What does the data tell us about sex among teens?

The most recent data gives us some pretty good news about teens’ sex behaviors. The graphs below come from data collected by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

In the top graph the number of high schoolers who report having sex has been steadily dropping for the past 25 years. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of high schoolers who report using a condom during sex, shown in the bottom graph. However, you can also see that this increase has leveled off in recent years. Fortunately, parents can help their teens make the right choices about sex by using a balanced parenting style and communicating openly about healthy sexuality.

How do we know a balanced parenting style helps teens make safer sex choices?

Scientists measure the positive impact of balanced parenting and teens’ decisions about sex in a couple different ways. They can measure parenting style the standard way (as we discuss here) and show that teens are less likely to have sex if their parents use a balanced style.

Scientists can also look at how connected parents are to the rest of the family. In other words, how much warmth, love, and care do parents provide? Teens from families with lots of this support start having sex later in life and are less likely to become pregnant.

Parents’ high expectations also play an important role in when a teen chooses to have sex. Some of these studies are a little older, but their results hold up in more recent research. You may have seen headlines about this study that came out in 2015. In this review that synthesized the results of 52 studies, the scientists found that parents who talked with their teens about sex protected them from having risky sex. This includes higher use of condoms during sex.

The bottom line is that parents who are supportive and honest with their teens will help their teens make safer decisions about sex. Click here for some additional resources. Here are some other articles that may help you start ongoing conversations with your teens about sex:

Image by: Samantha Lee/Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

About Andy Pool

Andrew Pool, Ph.D., M.Sc. is a Research Scientist at CPTC. He has a doctorate in Public Health with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Temple University.

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