Should parents discuss sex with their teens?

Absolutely. Multiple studies demonstrate that parent-child communication has an important protective effect on adolescent sexual behavior.1-3 Parents need to be actively involved with their teens and take time to clearly communicate their own values and expectations.

– Teens who feel close to their parents are much less likely to engage in risky behavior.4
– Teens whose parents express disapproval of nonmarital sex and contraceptive use are less likely than their peers to have sex.5
– Teens who talk to a parent about sex tend to wait to have sex, have fewer sexual partners, and are more likely to name apparent than a peer as a good source of information about sex.6


1. Karofsky PS, Zeng I., Kosorok MR. Relationship between adolescent-parental communication and initiation of first intercourse by adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 2000;28(1):41-45.
2. Resnick M, Bearman D, Blum R, et al. Protecting adolescents from harm. Findings from the national longitudinal study on adolescent health. JAMA. 1997;278(10):823-832.
3. Dilorio C, Kelley M, Hockenberry-Eaton M. Communications about sexual issues: mothers, fathers, and friends. J Adolesc Health. 1999;24(3):181-189.
4. Jaccard J, Dittus P, Gordon V. Parent-teen communication about premarital sex: factors associated with the extent of communication. J Adolesc Res. 2000;15(2):187-208.
5. Lederman RP, ChanW. Roberts-Gray C. Sexual risk attitudes and intentions of youth aged 12-14 years; survey comparisons of parent-teen prevention and control groups. Behav Med. Winter 2004;29(4):155-163.
6. Whitaker d, miller K. Parent-adolescent discussions about sex and condoms: impact on peer influences of sexual risk behavior. J Adolesc Res. 2000;15(2):251-273.

Reviewed: June 2012