Curbing Teenage Sex

Question: It seems clear that comprehensive sex-education programs have failed miserably in addressing the problems of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, all of which have dramatically increased over the past twenty years. So what is the answer to curbing teenage sexual activity?

Answer: One significant study, authored by Stephen Small from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Tom Luster of Michigan State and published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, demonstrated rather conclusively that parental involvement and the transmitting of the parents' values were significant factors in preventing early sexual activity. In a direct and refreshingly sensible way, Small and Luster put parents back in the driver's seat (or the hot seat) when they said, "Permissive parental values regarding adolescent sexual behavior emerged as a strong risk factor for both males and females. Not surprisingly, adolescents who perceived their parents as accepting of premarital adolescent sexual activity were more likely to be sexually experienced."  The acorn never falls far from the tree.

Another important study, conducted by Drs. Sharon White and Richard DeBlassie (published in Adolescence,) found that parents who set the most moderate and reasonable rules for their teens in the areas of dating and interaction with the opposite sex actually got the best results--in contrast to those who were overly strict (who experienced a lesser degree of success) and those who provided no guidelines whatsoever (whose position was least efficacious of all).

From these studies and others, we can conclude that the people who are most effective in steering their children away from the precipice of premarital sex are those who understand that parenting adolescents is a delicate art. They are the parents who are present and involved, who communicate and exemplify their own values and attitudes, who ask questions, who carefully supervise their kids' choice of escorts and points of destination, and who insist on a reasonable curfew. But they also keep a light touch as far as it's possible to do so, because they know that the rod of iron comes with problems of its own. The bottom line? There is no sex-education program, no curriculum, no school or institution in the world that can match the power and influence of this kind of parental involvement.

It's worth adding that kids from intact, two-parent homes are less likely to engage in sexual experimentation than their counterparts from single-parent families or less stable backgrounds. And teens who have strong religious convictions and participate actively in church are, as a group, far more likely to practice abstinence than their peers. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that faith and fidelity in the older generation are the best insurance against promiscuity in the younger.

Book: The The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide

By Dr. James Dobson

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