When I was in high school, my family had sit down dinners almost every evening. Granted, if it was a night my mom was working and my dad was in charge, those meals might have been of the hot dog and baked bean variety…but regardless of what we ate, the table was set, the TV was off and conversation was had.
I had mixed feelings about our dinners. Sometimes I really enjoyed them. Other times, like when everyone else was headed out for a night of endless coffees at the diner, I’d try to weasel my way out.
Well, according to a new study, my folks had the right idea. Researchers at Boston College found that teens in homes with things like regular family meals and family activities, "had sex less frequently, less unprotected sex and fewer sex partners."
A lot of studies have looked at how parenting influences whether or not teens have sex. But this study was one of the first to look at the relationship between home life and the risks taken by teens who are sexually active. That’s an important distinction because there is a really big difference between a kid who has unprotected sex with 15 different people and a kid who practices safer sex with partners she is involved with.
The same study found that, "less negative and hostile parenting during mid-adolescence predicted lower sexual risk behaviors during late adolescence."
On the other hand, teens were more likely to take sexual risks if they had rigid parents who imposed strict rules and were psychologically controlling.
Again, it seems like my folks were on to something. I had rules, but even at the time I knew they were pretty reasonable. For example, I never had a strict curfew. I was, however, expected to call home any time I changed locations–and this was in an era before cell phones.
Also, though they didn’t like it, I was allowed to sleep over boyfriends’ houses. Their rationale was that they would rather know where I was than have me sneaking around behind their backs.
As a teen my parents worried about me a lot. I had some questionable boyfriends, stayed out late and could rarely be found waiting for a bus without a cigarette in hand. However, now I can tell them that research proves their instincts were right on. Without their flexibility and our dinner time chats, the choices I made could have been a whole lot worse!
What do you think? Does time with your family make a difference to you?