Building Family Connections shows positive results for parent-child communication on sexual health

Sexually active adolescents are at immediate risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV and pregnancy. There are an estimated 19 million new cases of STIs every year; half of these affect 15- to 24-year-olds.1 About 25% of all new HIV infections in the US occur in persons under age 25.2 Furthermore, sexually active adolescents — particularly females — are at significant risk for long-term consequences of STIs such as cervical cancer and infertility. To avoid the immediate and long term consequences of sexual activity at a young age, youth need to learn about the risks as well as how to avoid them.

Fortunately, effective parenting strategies, including monitoring, effective communication, and parent-child connectedness can protect youth from risky sexual behaviors.3 Parents have long being known as strong influencers of youth sexual decision making.4,5 The Medical Institute for Sexual Health (MI), through its resources, empowers parents with medically accurate sexual health information to begin the lifelong conversation with youth about sex and healthy relationships. One such resource is the Building Family Connections (BFC) curriculum. This curriculum, funded and reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to postpone the age of sexual debut in youth nationwide by increasing parental involvement in sexual health and risk avoidance. Through BFC trained educators, parenting adults learn how to communicate effectively with youth about avoiding risky sexual behaviors and their consequences.

The BFC program has been very successful in reaching parents and enhancing parenting adult-youth sexual health communication. In 2008 and 2009, MI trained 74 educators to provide BFC curriculum to parents in their communities. After training, evaluation data showed significant increases in educator knowledge on sexual health topics. Most educators that went through the training agreed that the training was useful and adequately prepared them to hold the BFC course for parenting adults in their communities. Through June 2010, approximately 350 parenting adults have attended 38 BFC courses held by 17 trainers all over the country. More courses are being planned by other trained educators. Furthermore, evaluation data from parenting adults have shown significant changes in parent knowledge, attitudes and communication with adolescents related to sexual health. BFC training of educators has been very effective in reaching parents nationwide to empower parents to guide youth toward making the healthiest decisions. MI is committed to providing this program and its resources to parents to help our youth live healthy and risk-free lives.


1. Golden MR. Sexually transmitted diseases. In: Dale DC, ed. Infectious Diseases: The Clinician’s Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention. 3rd ed. New York: WebMD Professional Publishing; 2003:168-185. [quote p. 168].
2. Weinstock H, Berman S, Cates W Jr. Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: Incidence and prevalence estimates, 2000. Perspec on Sex and Reprod Health. 2004;36(1):6-10.
3. Markham CM, Lormand D, Gloppen KM, Peskin MF, Flores B, Low B, House LD. Connectedness as a predictor of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for youth. J Adolesc Health.2010; 46(3):S23-S41.
4. Dittus PJ, Jaccard J. Adolescents’ perceptions of maternal disapproval of sex: relationship to sexual outcomes. J Adolesc Health. 2000;26(4):268-278.
5. McNeely C, Shew ML, Beuhring T, Sieving R, Miller BC, Blum RW. Mothers’ influence on the timing of first sex among 14 and 15 year-olds. J Adolesc Health. 2002;31(3):256-265.

Reviewed: October 2010