SALT LAKE CITY — Parents and their children have very different views of how effective and comprehensive “the talk” about sex is in most homes, with parents giving efforts higher marks than the kids do, says a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Parents who are comfortable having many developmentally appropriate conversations about sexuality as their children grow up are less likely to have children who engage in risky sexual behavior when they’re 21, says study author Laura M. Padilla-Walker, professor in Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life and associate dean in the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences.

In America’s “highly sexualized” culture, kids pick up bits and pieces about sexuality starting at a very young age and from many sources, says Padilla-Walker. “I was disappointed that (conversation) levels were so low and that they didn’t change as children aged. Even if we think or hope that our children are abstaining from sex before marriage, they are still sexual beings and have sexual feelings that need to be discussed at increasing rates and in higher quality ways as children age.”

Nate Edwards, BYU

Laura M. Padilla-Walker

The study calls parents a “prime source” of sex education because they can share information and answer questions early, the depth of conversation increasing as a child ages. But while neither parent nor child reported high-level communication, the parents believe they’re doing a better job of communicating about sex, while their teens give them comparatively low marks.

Participants were 468 adolescents ages 11-14 at the start of the study and their mothers, as well as 311 of their fathers. Each summer for a decade, participants answered a survey about their sexual communication. The youths also answered questions about their sexual behaviors. Of note was a finding that moms talked about sexuality less to sons than daughters in early adolescence, though it leveled off when they were older.

Padilla-Walker is also co-author of “A Better Way to Teach Kids About Sex.” The Deseret News asked her why ongoing conversations about sex are important and how they might be framed. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Deseret News: Is there some advantage to an in-depth conversation about sex at a particular time or should it be snippets here and there?

Laura Padilla-Walker: I think how these conversations will look varies. I think for a child who has a lot of questions at one time, a long and detailed conversation might be appropriate. Most children, however, will have questions at varying intervals and the answers will be relatively short. Or the opportunities for parents to initiate conversations will come up intermittently (e.g., with a movie that has sexual content) and will not be lengthy. The idea is to send the message to your children that you’re willing to talk about sexuality at any time and are completely open to questions and conversation. … If you notice that there is much more of you talking and fewer questions from them, it might be …read more

Source:: Deseret News – World News

      

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