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Parents' Disapproval of Sex May Cut Kids' STD Risk

July 13, 2005

Dr. Carol A. Ford of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and colleagues found that teenage girls who think their parents disapprove of their having sex may have a lower risk of STDs as young adults. Compared with their peers, girls who believed their parents would not want them to have sex were 16 percent less likely to have an STD -- chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis -- six years later. The same did not hold true for teenage boys.

Researchers surveyed nearly 11,600 U.S. students in middle school or high school, then re-interviewed and tested them for the three STDs six years later. Overall, slightly more than 6 percent of participants tested positive for an STD at follow-up. Among females, those who said their parents disapproved of teen sex in the initial interviews had a lower infection rate.

Furthermore, students with higher grade point averages had a lower STD risk as young adults than those with poorer grades. Again, the influence of academic performance was stronger among females than males.

Despite the gender gap in the findings, the authors said the study implies that parents should make their views on sex clear to their children. The study focused on teens' perceptions of their parents' views on sex, not parents' professed opinions. Since past research has shown that teens often misinterpret their parents' attitudes toward sex, the question of how to effectively discuss the topic with teenagers "is something that every parent wants to have answered," said Ford. Parents should try to "talk with [teens] rather than at them," she suggested.

Ford noted that the study looked at a fairly narrow outcome, the risk of three STDs several years out of adolescence. Had the researchers looked at STD risk in adolescence, Ford said, the overall results might have been different.

None of the other variables the study examined, including teens' commitment to religion or feelings of connection to family or school, showed an effect on long-term STD risk.

The study, "Predicting Adolescents' Longitudinal Risk for Sexually Transmitted Infection: Results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health," appeared in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (2005;159(7):657-664).

Back to other news for July 13, 2005

Adapted from:
07.05.05; Amy Norton

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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