THURSDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The idea that fathers play
a significant role in the development of their kids' approach to
sex has received some support in a new evidence review. Studies in
the review suggest that adolescents have less sex if their fathers
talk to them more about sexual matters.
There are caveats. The review only looked at a few studies
because there's little research into the role of fathers -- as
compared to mothers -- when it comes to the decisions that teens
make about sex. And it's possible that some other factor could
explain the apparent link between more fatherly communication and
less sexual activity.
Still, the review suggests that "fathers do make a difference.
It's not just about mothers," said lead author Vincent
Guilamo-Ramos, a professor and co-director of New York University's
Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health.
It's important to understand how parents affect sexual behavior
in their kids because young people are at special risk of unplanned
pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, Guilamo-Ramos
While schools and health-care providers often focus on children
directly in efforts to change the way they act, "in study after
study, young people say that when it comes to these important
decisions, it really matters what their parents think about these
issues," he said.
As for dads, he said, "there hasn't been a lot of focus on what
is it that fathers do other than being present that really
contributes to the health and well-being of their adolescent
The review authors found and reviewed 13 studies about the
effect that fathers had on the sexual behavior of their kids. The
studies suggest -- but don't prove -- that communication between
fathers and kids is especially influential. The design of the
review didn't allow its authors to determine how much of a
statistical effect the fathers had on the number of teens having
sex and engaging in risky sex.
Closeness with fathers at the beginning of a study was
significantly associated with daughters delaying starting sex after
a year of follow-up. A single study on father-son HIV prevention
found that more communication about sex was linked to increased
abstinence in the six-month study period.
What to do? "It's not enough to just be connected to your kids
and have positive parenting," Guilamo-Ramos said. "It's critical
that parents communicate their values and provide guidance [to
their kids] about how to keep themselves safe." He believes that
should include suggestions about protected sex.
An expert on educational psychology weighed in on the review
Cheryl Somers, director of the school and community psychology
program at Wayne State University, cautioned that "it's critical,
as common sense would suggest, to strike a balance between
protecting and overprotecting."
She noted that the review suggests kids are more likely to have
sex earlier if they have very strict or very lenient parents.
What about the possibility that giving kids more information
about sexuality will encourage them to have sex? "This is simply
not supported by research," said Somers, who's not connected to the
review but worked on one of the reviewed studies.
Overall, she said, the research sends a message: "Fathers do
matter -- they have a role and they need to know that."
The study appears online Oct. 15 and in the November print issue
of the journal
For more about
teen sexual health, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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