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Parent-Child Homework Assignments Designed to Increase Communication About Sexuality

May 18, 2001

A study in the March/April issue of Family Planning Perspectives examined the effectiveness of parent-child homework assignments for students in a school-based abstinence-only curriculum.

Data was collected from 351 middle school students participating in a Managing the Pressures before Marriage (MPM) program between the 1998 and 1999 school year. Students were randomly assigned to receive only the classroom instruction (MPM-only) or the classroom instruction enhanced by five homework assignments (MPM-enhanced) designed for the students and their parents. Students were given pre-and-post test surveys designed to measure determinants of sexual onset, characteristics of parent-child communication about sexuality, and risk-related behaviors.


Results

  • Overall, adolescents were significantly more likely to know of the effectiveness of abstinence as a prevention strategy at post-intervention than at baseline, but their level of knowledge about risk of pregnancy at first sexual intercourse did not change.

  • Overall, the perceived comfort about communicating with parents about sexuality improved but the frequency of parent-child communication about sexuality did not change significantly.

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  • Students in the MPM-enhanced group reported more frequent communication with their parents than the students in the MPM-only group at the post-intervention.

  • Students in the MPM-only group were more likely to have been exposed to potentially sexual or sexual situations than students in the MPM-enhanced group at baseline, but showed no group differences at the post-intervention.

  • Compared with students in the MPM-only group, students in the MPM-enhanced group who completed more homework assignments reported significantly lower intentions to become sexually active, greater self-efficacy to refuse or avoid risk behaviors, less lifetime alcohol use, more overall parent-child communications, and more discussions related to MPM classroom lessons.

  • Students who completed fewer homework assignments were less likely than those who completed more assignments to say that they talked with their parents about the lessons and were more likely to say they went further sexually than they wanted.

The results suggest that homework assignments designed to enhance parent-child communication and support of a school-based prevention curriculum appeared to have an immediate impact on several key determinants of sexual behavior among middle-school adolescents. However, the authors point out that research on parent-child involvement in prevention interventions is still in its infancy and that researchers are optimistic that conducting research along these lines may possibly make significant contributions to the prevention of HIV, STDs, and unintended pregnancies.

For more information: Susan M. Blake, et al., "Effects of a Parent-Child Communications Intervention on Young Adolescents' Risk of Early Onset of Sexual Intercourse," Family Planning Perspectives, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 52-61.



  
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This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.
 
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