Some feel they can talk about sex until they're blue in the face and still not make an impact in their teen-ager's decision to abstain from sex. Well, a new study says a mother can play a huge role in her children's sex lives.
Teen-agers are less likely to start having sex when their mothers are involved in their lives, have a close relationship with them and successfully communicate their values on sex to them, according to new findings from the largest survey ever conducted with adolescents in the United States.
Dr. Robert Blum, the study's author, told The Early Show viewers what the findings mean.
Dr. Blum explained that the study also concluded that simply warning teen-agers about the dangers of early sex or telling them they shouldn't have sex does not stop them from becoming sexually active. The study's results were most consistent among younger teens in the eighth and ninth grades.
"We found that when kids feel close and connected to their moms, they are more likely to delay having sex," said Dr. Blum
But kids don't always get the message. Even when mothers strongly disapprove of their children having sex, 30 percent of girls and nearly 45 percent of boys are not aware of this. At the same time, when teens report that they are having sex, only 51 percent of their mothers think they are.
"When children are close to their mothers, they are more receptive to what their mother says and are also more likely to share their mother's beliefs," said Dr. Blum. "Children who feel close to their mothers tend to not feel like they are being lectured to when discussing subjects such as sex and drugs."
The study results show that parents can do many things that make a difference. For example, teens are less likely to become sexually active if their parents know their friends and speak with their friends' parents. Most importantly, teens, and especially younger teens, who feel close to their mothers are less likely to start having sex.
Dr. Blum lists the following results from the survey:
- For younger teens and older teen-age boys, a strong sense of connectedness with their mothers - in which the teen feels close to mom and perceives that she is warm and caring- makes a difference. This effect was not seen among older teen-age girls.
- Girls whose mothers have higher levels of education are less likely to become sexually active. On the other hand, teens whose mothers are highly religious are no less likely than other teens to start having sex.
- Mothers who report that they frequently talk with the parents of their daughters' friends had daughters who were less likely to have initiated sex over the one-year study period. These findings did not hold true for boys.
The study also finds that mothers' awareness of their teens' sex lives is frequently inaccurate. When teen-agers reported that they had not had sexual intercourse, their mothers were almost always correct in that assessment. But when teens reported that they were having sex, their mothers had only a 51 percent chance of being right in their assessment.
Dr. Blum said the findings indicate that children with parents who stress the importance of school are more likely to delay having their first sexual experience. Parents can help by backing up those expectations with actions, such as monitoring homework and speaking with teachers.