According to a new study, the traditional image of a father enraged at his teenage children’s at-risk sexual behavior may be fading.
Researchers at Boston College, the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard University found that when adolescents told their fathers about engaging in at-risk sexual activity, the fathers responded by stepping up their efforts to supervise and monitor their kids.
"This research highlights the complex interplay of relationships between parents and their adolescent children," said lead author Rebekah Levine Coley, an associate professor of applied developmental and educational psychology at Boston College. "Given the notably negative potential repercussions of risky sexual activity during adolescence, this study can inform efforts to increase parents’ oversight of and active engagement with their teenage children."
Two-thirds of American teenagers have sex by the time they are 18, states the study, which suggests that communication between a father and his children is important, especially during the teenage years.
The study followed more than 3,200 teenagers aged 13 to 18 for a total of four years. The teens involved were a subset of participants in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
During the research period, the teens reported annually on their parents’ knowledge of their activities. At the age of 14, the teenagers were also asked questions about any at-risk sexual activities they were engaged in. This included frequency of intercourse, number of partners and incidences of unprotected sex.
While sexual activity may be difficult to prevent, fathers can provide their children with information about staying safe and avoiding certain situations by using their parenting skills to communicate with their children.
Teenagers who have an open line of communication with their fathers may be more likely to talk about problems at school or various social issues. Though fathers may not have all the answers, the act of talking out these problems can be beneficial toward the development of the child as well as helping the father understand his son or daughter better.