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New Poll: Parents are Talking With Their Kids About Sex but Often Not Tackling Harder Issues

Planned Parenthood and the Center for Latino and Adolescent Family Health Release Tools That can Help Parents Talk to Their Children About Sex and Sexual Health

Eighty-two percent of parents have talked to their children about topics related to sexuality, according to a new poll released today.  However, when it comes to tougher, more complicated topics, many adolescents are not getting the support they need to delay sex and prevent pregnancy.  This new finding underscores the importance of October’s Let’s Talk Month, which encourages parents to talk to their children about sex and sexual health.

The poll, “Let’s Talk: Are Parents Tackling Crucial Conversations about Sex?,” shows that parents talk to their kids about a wide range of sexuality-related topics, including relationships (92 percent) and their own values about when sex should or should not take place (87 percent). 

However, fewer parents are talking with their kids about tougher, more complicated topics.  Only 74 percent are talking about how to say no to sex, and while 94 percent believe they are influential in whether or not their child uses condoms or other forms of birth control, only 60 percent are talking with their children about birth control.

“Contrary to common stereotypes, most mothers and fathers are talking to their kids about sexuality and sexual health,” said Leslie Kantor, national director of education, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).  “However, the survey shows that some parents are still uncomfortable talking about harder topics, such as birth control and how to say no, and can use help having these conversations.”

The nationally representative survey commissioned by PPFA and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) at the Silver School of Social Work at NYU, conducted by Knowledge Networks, also found that

  • Forty-three percent of parents say they feel very comfortable talking with their children about sex and sexual health.  However, 57 percent said they only feel somewhat comfortable or uncomfortable talking to their children about sex and sexual health.
  • Ninety-three percent of parents feel confident about their ability to influence whether or not their child has sex.  However, most of those same parents — 64 percent — say their own mothers and fathers did a poor job educating them about sex and sexual health.
  • Parents overwhelmingly support sex education programs in high school and middle school, and believe that they should cover a range of topics, including birth control.

“This poll shows that parents are very concerned about keeping their kids safe and healthy.  We also know from previous studies that young people whose parents effectively communicate about sex are more likely to delay sex, have fewer partners, and use contraception if they do have sex,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD, co-director, CLAFH; professor, NYU Silver School of Social Work.  “It’s clear that it is extremely important for parents to lay the groundwork early and talk to their kids often and openly.  Parents need clear guidance on how to make conversations about sex with their adolescent children effective."

As part of Let’s Talk Month in October, Planned Parenthood will also release a set of new resources that put special focus on encouraging parents to talk to their kids:

  • An online photo flipbook featuring actor and comedian Aisha Tyler, writer and producer Luisa Leschin, actor Kathleen Turner, and everyday people reminiscing about conversations they’ve had with their own parents and children about sex.
  • A humorous, teachable-moment video that shows parents being confronted with questions about sex from kids of all ages and backgrounds.  The video will be released in mid-October and is an amusing yet useful look at how parents can effectively respond to their children’s questions about sex.
  • A revamped “Tools for Parents” section of plannedparenthood.org that features tips to help parents talk with their kids about sex and sexual health, build strong parent-child relationships, and set rules for their teens that help keep them safe and healthy.
  • An online social networking experience that guides parents through the steps of developing the messages they want to give their children and gets them ready to have conversations during Let’s Talk Month and beyond.

Additionally, CLAFH will make available Families Talking Together (FTT), a family-based program designed to support effective parent-adolescent communication among African-American and Latino families.  FTT is available in both English and Spanish and can be accessed at the CLAFH website, www.nyu.edu/socialwork/clafh.

Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country will also ramp up additional initiatives for parents during the month of October and throughout the year.  Planned Parenthood offers educational programs that are geared toward helping parents communicate with their children about sex and sexual health.

“It’s clear that parents overwhelmingly support teaching comprehensive sex education, including topics like birth control, in middle school and high school,” said Kantor.  “But the majority of state education policies are completely out of step.  In fact, only 10 states and the District of Columbia require that sex education programs include teaching about birth control.”

Planned Parenthood is here for moms and dads to help them communicate effectively with their children about sexuality and sexual health.  Planned Parenthood encourages parents and children to talk about sexuality and sexual health, and provides comprehensive sex education to 1.1 million parents and young people every year.  In addition, Planned Parenthood provides information to more than 30 million people annually through plannedparenthood.org.

The “Let’s Talk: Are Parents Tackling Crucial Conversations about Sex?” poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, is a probability-based random sample recruited and maintained by Knowledge Networks and represents 97 percent of U.S households.  A random stratified nationally representative sample of 1,111 parents of children aged 10–18 was selected from panel participants.  The poll was conducted from August 23 to August 29, 2011.  The margin of error is +/- 3 percent.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate. We believe that everyone has the right to choose when or whether to have a child, and that every child should be wanted and loved. Planned Parenthood affiliates operate nearly 800 health centers nationwide, providing medical services and sexuality education for millions of women, men, and teenagers each year. We also work with allies worldwide to ensure that all women and men have the right and the means to meet their sexual and reproductive health care needs.

The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at the NYU Silver School of Social Work investigates the role of the Latino family in shaping the development and well being of Latino adolescents.  Strategically based in New York City, CLAFH addresses the needs of New York’s diverse Latino communities in both national and global contexts.  The Center serves as a link between the scientific community, Latino health and social service providers, and the broader Latino community.



Contacts

Planned Parenthood Federation of America Media Office, 212-261-4433

Published: 10.03.11

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