African-American female adolescents who reported that they had high levels of parental supervision had reduced incidence of gonorrhea and chlamydia infections than their peers who reported low parental supervision, according to an article in the July issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
According to the article, the highest rates of gonorrhea (GC) and chlamydia (CT) infections are seen in female adolescents aged 15 to 19 years, with disproportionately high rates in African Americans. Understanding how family life affects the acquisition of STDs among African American females may be helpful to craft interventions to reduce STD acquisition among these adolescents.
Julie A. Bettinger, Ph.D., of The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., and colleagues studied the effect of high levels of perceived parental supervision and communication (as reported by adolescents) on GC and CT infection in 158 adolescent females (97.1 percent African American) aged 14 to 19 years (average age, 17.1 years).
Participants were recruited from two urban health clinics – one was a public STD clinic and the other was a hospital-based adolescent medicine clinic. All participants had vaginal or anal intercourse with an opposite sex partner within the three months preceding enrollment in the study, completed an interview on perceived parental supervision and communication, and provided a urine sample for laboratory testing for GC and CT at the beginning of the study. Information on parental characteristics was also collected at the beginning of the study. Six months later, participants provided a second urine sample for GC and CT screening.
The researchers found that fewer than 20 percent of the participants’ parents were married or living together. The prevalence of GC and CT at the beginning of the study was 30.5 percent (85 of 279 total participants) and the incidence at six months was 20.9 percent (33 of 158 participants who completed the follow-up portion of the study six months later). The researchers found that high levels of perceived parental supervision were linked with reduced GC and CT infections, but high levels of parental communication (talking about STDs) were not.
“Our prospective results showed that high levels of perceived parental supervision led to a reduction in the laboratory-confirmed incidence of GC and CT in African American female adolescents, regardless of their age,” write the authors.
“Parental involvement as a strategy for promoting protective behaviors among adolescents is increasingly a subject of research, and our results provide further evidence that interventions designed to increase parental involvement may affect not only adolescent behavior but disease acquisition as well,” the researchers write.