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Fathers - Still an important influence on adolescent sexual behavior.
A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics
underscores the important role that fathers play in adolescent sexual health and behavior. Previous research and interventional programs have focused on the role of mothers on the sexual behavior of adolescents with little or no attention to the pertinent role of fathers in adolescent sexual health.
This study was a structured literature review of studies published over a span of three decades between 1980 and 2011 using a target population of adolescents aged 11-18 years with a focus on the processes of paternal parenting. A literature search of six relevant electronic databases was conducted with a yield of 13 articles that met the inclusion criteria for this systematic review.1
Parenting processes that served as variables in these studies include monitoring, discipline, and parent-adolescent communication. Father-related family structure factors such as employment and absence from the home were not included, as they were not the focus of this literature review. Since this review focused on identifying the unique influences of fathers on adolescent sexual behavior, studies that combined the results of maternal and paternal influences on this outcome of interest were excluded.1
Paternal variables were classified into five groups: paternal attitudes about adolescent sexual activity, monitoring and discipline-related behaviors, paternal involvement in adolescent’s life; emotional qualities of the father-adolescent relationship including warmth, closeness, attachment; and father-adolescent communication about sex.1
The outcomes considered were: ever had sex, frequency of sex, number of sexual partners, contraceptive use, frequency of condom use, pregnancy and a composite measure of adolescent sexual behavior which was described by a construct designed by the researchers to simultaneously measure multiple adolescent sexual behaviors.1
This review found an association between paternal disapproval of adolescent sexual activity and delayed sexual debut. There was also a significant association between higher levels of father-adolescent connectedness or closeness and delay in sexual initiation. One study showed that a higher level of paternal communication about sex was associated with increased rates of adolescents choosing sexual risk avoidance.2
These study findings do not diminish the role of maternal factors in adolescent sexual behavior. However, they highlight the often ignored but pertinent role that fathers play in healthy sexual decision-making by adolescents.
It is imperative for fathers to maintain a dialogue with their adolescents and teens about sexual behavior, and this communication is essential in helping adolescents make healthy sexual decisions.
Guilamo-Ramos V, Bouris A, Lee J et al. Paternal Influences on Adolescent Sexual Risk Behaviors: A Structured Literature Review. Pediatrics 2012:130(5): e1313 – e1325.
DiIorio C, McCarty F, Resnicow K, Lehr S, Denzmore S. REAL Men: a group-randomized trial of an HIV prevention intervention for adolescent boys. Res Pract. 2007;97(6):1084–1089.
Fast Fact for the Month
Remember, not all teens are doing it. Less than half of high school students have ever had sexual intercourse.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2011. MMWR 2012;61(No. SS-4): 1-168.