practicing safer sex? thank your folks

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?

This entry was posted in Health, Sex & Relationships, Relationships, The State of Sex Ed.
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  • oh gosh!
    my parents make me and my brother and sisters sit down EVERYNIGHT and have dinner together.
    we sitt eat dinner and talk.
    its so annoying!
    haa (:

  • While my family is very religious we have never been prudish. There are five kids in my family and my older siblings are all over six years my senior and so I learned about a lot of things earlier than most kids. I don't even remembering when I learned about sex it was just something I knew about. While my family feels that sex should be saved for marriage we have always been open and talked about things that other people we are related too would think are vulgar. We always ate dinner together and we always laughed a lot and I am sure that has influenced my closeness with my parents and my respect for their rules I might not have had if we never talked about things.

  • Amanda

    I definitely agree. My parents have never been incredibly strict, but they know that I have a really good understanding of what is expected of me. My mom has always been very open with me, and when I do decide to have sex, I know that I can go to her about it, instead of having to sneak around, like a lot of my friends who have crazy, strict, overbearing parents.
    Oh, also, I just wanted to say that I really love your blog, and that it's sort of inspired me to write my junior research paper on why we should have a comprehensive sex education class (I'm in VA, where it's all abstinence only and you don't learn anything).

  • Jessica

    My parents (more my mom) are becoming really strict, I'm not even in high school anymore. It makes no sense to me. So instead of them allowing me to go to the movies with my boyfriend, I invite him into my house and we have sex. I'm sure they would prefer the movies but not letting me go out is completely ridiculous.

  • Chris

    My parents are pretty reasonable, though they differ in strictness on different things. I have an early curfew, but I don't go out a lot. I can normally reason with them about guys, so that's not much of a problem. Our real bone of contention is religion; they're devout Catholics, and I'm leaning toward Wicca, so I don't think that will end happily, but I certainly won't have lots of unprotected sex to prove my point.

  • noe

    i can relate, cause it was like that in my home too.

  • Dylan

    "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."
    THANK YOU. I wish a lot of parents realized that teenagers rebel. They don't like to listen, which is why "Don't have sex, sex is bad, just don't, or you'll die" doesn't work.

  • Blake

    I guess my parents are totally contradictory: my mom's a control freak and my dad doesn't really care where I am – also, they are seperated, and I live with my mom, but I also spend lots of time with him and I can have my freedom then. But overall, I guess I'm a subject of a barbarous tyrannical matriarchy, and the only subject x___x