Engaging Parents Reduces Risky Sexual Behavior Among Adolescents

In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers examined the link between adolescent sexual behavior and parental monitoring. This meta-analysis found that there is an opportunity for providers to work with both parents and adolescents to decrease risky adolescent behavior.

Researchers Patricia Dittus, Shannon Michael, Jeffrey Becasen, Kari Gloppen, Katharine McCarthy and Vincent Guilamo-Ramos reviewed studies published between 1984 and 2014 from sources including Medline, Sociological Abstracts, and Google Scholar among others. “Parental Monitoring and Its Associations with Adolescent Sexual Risk Behavior: a Meta-analysis”, published online November 30th in Pediatrics, found that “Provider-initiated family-based interventions focused on parental monitoring represent a novel mechanism for enhancing adolescent sexual and reproductive health.”

Parental Monitoring and Risk Behaviors

The study looked at contraceptive and condom use as well as early sexual intercourse as indicators of risky sexual behavior among adolescents. Parental monitoring tactics included overall monitoring, monitoring knowledge and rule enforcement. These tactics were equally effective for adolescents across the age spectrum and for adolescents of both sexes.

Specifically, the meta-analysis found that higher overall monitoring and monitoring knowledge were associated with increased contraceptive use and that these monitoring techniques were associated with increased condom use. Higher overall monitoring, rule enforcement, and monitoring knowledge were correlated with delayed sexual intercourse.

Impact of Clinicians

The study also found that parents often look to health care providers for guidance and that parents trust the guidance of the clinicians who provide care to their adolescent children. It suggests that clinicians should work with the whole family in identifying an approach to reduce risky adolescent sexual behavior. However, the study also noted that general monitoring behaviors could be a proxy for strong parent-child relationships and greater parental involvement across the board.

In an interview with Reuters, principal study author Vincent Guilamo-Ramos said, "Providers can be proactive with parents and parents can have an effect on their teens if they know what to do."

Practicing clinicians must consider many issues when providing care to adolescents who are or may soon be engaged in behaviors that put their health at risk. What strategies have worked with your adolescent patients and families? How do you address patient privacy with regard to adolescent sexual behavior? When is it best to leave the parents out of the conversation and to work directly with the patient?

Interested in adolescent health? Read more about how clinicians are caring for adolescents in the latest issue of The Independent Pediatrician, which focuses specifically on adolescent medicine.

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Tags: adolescent medicine, PCC Blog, health, parenting, risky behavior