Parents can promote healthy sexual development and risk reduction among adolescents. Adolescents who feel close to their parents, are supervised by them, and can talk with them about sex are more likely to delay their first sexual relationship, have fewer sexual partners, and use contraceptives when they do have sex. Many parents, however, are uncertain about talking with their children about sexual health and parents’ after-work demands leave little time to attend evening or weekend parenting classes to learn effective communication techniques. To address these issues, researchers designed and evaluated the results of Talking Parents, Healthy Teens (TPHT), an 8-week, lunch-hour program given to parents at their worksites.
This research project sought to determine if the program successfully promoted adolescent sexual health and reduced risk over several years and whether it had an effect on parenting behaviors and parent-child relationships. Researchers also tried to quantify the influence key parenting skills like communication could have on parent-child relationships and adolescent sexual behavior as well as identify the factors that hindered or promoted parent-child communication about sexuality.
The research team surveyed 569 parents of 710 children in 6th–10th grade regularly over a period of several years. Parents were randomly assigned to participate in the program or to be in a control group, which did not participate. Initial findings suggest the program increased parent-adolescent communication and the increases are sustained beyond the end of the program. Compared with parents who did not receive the intervention, participating parents were more likely to discuss new topics about sexuality with their adolescent children, discuss more topics repeatedly, talk about condom use, and rate their parent-child relationship as being open to communication. Adolescents who had repeated sexual communication with parents reported feeling more able to communicate with parents in general (particularly about sex), feeling closer to their parents, and believing their discussions were more open than those between their peers and their parents. The researchers are continuing to measure how long the effects of the intervention last.
Researchers are now considering the most effective way to disseminate the program. Members of the research team are also developing adaptations of the program, including a version for use in South Africa.
Eastman KL, Corona R, Schuster MA. Talking Parents, Healthy Teens: a worksite-based program for parents to promote adolescent sexual health. Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy 2006;3:A126. Epub.
Schuster MA, Corona R, Elliott MN, Kanouse DE, Eastman KL, Zhou AJ, Klein DJ.
Evaluation of ‘Talking Parents, Healthy Teens,’ a new worksite-based parenting program to promote parent-adolescent communication about sexual health: a randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal 2008;337:a308.