Parents fear sex advice will fall on deaf ears

January 7, 2011 by Christe Bruderlin-Nelson

Kids learn a great deal about sexuality from friends and from the media, but parents and teens agree: Parents should be the most important providers of information about sex and sexuality.

In a new study, researchers interviewed 1,605 parents of primarily white, school-aged children in Minnesota, asking where they thought kids should get their information about sexuality compared to where they actually get sex information.

While 98 percent of parents felt youth should receive their sex education from parents, only 24 percent believed they were the main providers of sex education information. Most parents – 78 percent − believed that kids received the majority of information about sex from friends and 60 percent saw as the main source.

“Based on previous research, however, youth indicate that parents are a primary source of sex information for them and that parents most influence their decisions about sex,” said study co-author Debra Bernat, Ph.D., at Florida State University.

The study “begs the question of why youth cannot get the information that they seek – and prefer – from their own parents,” said Nancy Irwin, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and cognitive behavioral specialist in Los Angeles who addresses childhood and adolescent . “This should be a wake-up call to parents: you and your kids want the exact same thing. What’s missing are the proper tools.”

The study appears online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Although there has been much controversy about sex education in schools, the majority of parents listed teachers as the second preferred source of information, followed by health care professionals and then religious leaders.

“School-based programs are very important since this may be the only source of information for some young people,” beyond peers and media, Bernat added.

The study did not differentiate between types of media, which might explain why only 3.5 percent of parents accepted it as a good source for teens. “The proportion of endorsing media might have been different had we separated out movies, television, books and the Internet, and specified who provided it to the young person.” Bernat said.

More information: Lagus KA, et al. (2010) Parental perspectives on sources of sex information for young people. J Adol Health online, 2011.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The social costs of smell loss in older women

March 22, 2017

A new study of older U.S. adults conducted by researchers from the Monell Center and collaborating institutions reports that a woman's social life is associated with how well her sense of smell functions. The study found ...

'Geofencing' shows promise in tracking chronic care

March 21, 2017

Location-tracking apps on smartphones could be used to help track and manage care for thousands of patients who suffer from chronic diseases, and possibly even provide feedback to them on lifestyle changes that could help, ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2011
The bigger issue is that most parent "grossly" underestimate when children start talking about sex amoung themselves. 6-8 yrs old is normally when these conversations begin on playgrounds at least in cities. Believing that its not until 12-14 is a fairy tale where we niavely try to think back.

There is a difference in talking about sex and full blown lustful conversations. Children sense which words are taboo and off limits due to context they hear adults use them in - or the lack of the usage of the word in any context at all is often a more identifing qualifier. so they ask friends what a "bj" means or waht "sex" means -- they don;t graduate to I'd like to " " her/him until puberty kicks in.

And the last issue is -- whatever you tell you children between 2-7 sticks the longest in thier psyche ... during those ages until you mess up bad enough you are God to them... use that power to shape them into responsible adults.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2011
I agree with EL_Nose. My kids are allowed to ask any questions and ask definition of any words.

Parents need to take sex education away from the schools. I opt out my kids from all sex ed at school. Yes parents you can do that, you will be pressured from the schools, but exercise your rights.

When parents arn't allowed to be in a classroom when a subject is being discussed, you cant trust what is being discussed is appropriate.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.