The Sex Talk Works: Commentary by Professor Vincent Guilamo-Ramos Featured on NBC News
An article published online in JAMA Pediatrics demonstrates that parent-adolescent communication can positively influence condom and contraceptive use among sexually active adolescents. However, the authors – researchers from NYU’s Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) – show as well that the state of research supporting family-based public health efforts aimed at shaping adolescent contraceptive and condom use needs strengthening.
The article by CLAFH co-directors Vincent Guilamo-Ramos and James Jaccard of the Silver School of Social Work at NYU and CLAFH researcher Jane Lee examines data pooled from 52 studies of parent-adolescent communication specifically related to contraception and condom use behavior, and described in a recent JAMA Pediatrics meta-analysis by Widman et al.
Despite evidence from the studies showing that parents can positively shape adolescent behavior, Guilamo-Ramos, Lee, and Jaccard suggest that a number of theoretical and methodological improvements are needed to strengthen the observed effects in the existing scientific literature.
There needs to be greater reliance on rigorous research designs, according to the authors. Also, specific factors in parent-adolescent communication about condoms and contraception also need to be focused on in future research, including: the timing and frequency of the communication; the degree of specificity in parental contraceptive communication versus more broader discussions regarding sex; consideration of communication effects within a comprehensive set of parenting behaviors such as monitoring and supervision; which adults, mom or dad, were involved, and whether the adolescents were male or female.
Additionally, further consideration by adolescent sexual-health researchers of ethnic and minority families and the unique needs of sexual minority youths is required.
Despite the above limitations to the research conducted so far, the meta-analysis by Widman et. al. is significant, and represents an important advancement to the state of the science related to how parents shape adolescent sexual behavior, the authors write.
The question of parent-adolescent communication has been shown to be critical to sexual health outcomes, the authors also write. Every year, poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes in the U.S. include, in part, 600,000 pregnancies among teens. Meanwhile, half of all new sexually transmitted infections are attributed to youth ages 15 to 24. Youths who are racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities are disproportionately affected by these outcomes.
“Youth want to hear from their parents and overwhelmingly say that parents matter,” reads the article titled "Parent-Adolescent Communication About Contraception and Condom Use." “Hence, public health efforts should support the unique role that parents can play in sexual decision making among adolescents.”
About The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH)
The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) at the NYU Silver School of Social Work investigates the role of the Latino family in shaping the development and well-being of Latino adolescents. Our research addresses key issues among Latino and other families and seeks to foster the development and evaluation of evidence-based interventions to prevent and reduce problem behaviors among youth. The Center serves as a link between the scientific community, Latino health and social service providers, and the broader Latino community. Visit www.clafh.org.
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