Washington Post (10.22.12)
A new review of studies suggests that fathers’ attitudes toward teen sex and their relationships with their teens can substantially influence their teens’ sexual behavior, separately from the influence of mothers. The review demonstrated that fathers’ attitudes toward teen sexual behavior were linked to the age at which teens first had sex. According to studies included in the review, those teens whose dads approved of adolescent sexual activity tended to begin sexual activity earlier than those teens whose dads did not approve. An additional finding was that teens that were closer to their fathers tended to start having sex later.
Study researcher Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, a professor of social work at New York University, notes that the findings suggest that fathers, who parent differently from mothers, may have a definite impact on the sexual behaviors of their adolescent children. However, most previous studies have centered on the influence of mothers on teen behavior. Understanding more completely the role that fathers play in their teens’ sexual behavior and reproductive health can assist researchers to identify which parenting practices most greatly influence teens and therefore lead to better intervention strategies that include both parents.
In the review, Guilamo-Ramos and colleagues looked at 13 studies of the paternal influence on the behavior of teens between the ages of 11 and 18. The term “father” was defined broadly to be the primary male caregiver in the teens’ life and could be the biological father, stepfather, adoptive father, uncle, or grandfather, for example.
Guilamo-Ramos states that adolescence is generally a time of increased risk-taking, and where sexual activity is concerned, it can lead to concerns for teens’ health with sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy. A 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 47 percent of high school students have had intercourse, and that 40 percent of those who were sexually active did not use a condom when they last had sex.