Year Published: 2020

Authors: Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., Amanda Richer, M.A.

Talking about sex can be an uncomfortable topic for both teenagers and their parents. To better understand family communication around this topic, researchers interviewed 23 pairs of teens and parents from an urban Northeast city about conversations they have regarding dating, sex, and relationships. They talked with the pairs once in seventh grade and again in tenth grade. This fact sheet presents preliminary findings from the study and offers research-informed tips for parents and extended family members on how to talk to teens and young adults about sex.

Parents in the study said they were more comfortable talking with teens about sex when the teens were in high school rather than middle school. On the other hand, teens said they were less comfortable talking with parents about this topic in high school, highlighting one of the many challenges families face in having these conversations. To guide these conversations, the researchers suggest discussing the topic before teens have sex, offering medically accurate information, and talking with both sons and daughters about sexual health.

This work was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [R03HD073381-01].

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