Survey reveals surprising insights into parental attitudes toward teenage sexual behavior

As an estimated four million American children make the transition from junior high/middle school to high school this fall, a new national survey conducted by the Society for Adolescent Medicine reveals parents' primary concerns as they ready their teenagers for the new school year.

Not surprisingly, most parents (67 percent) reported that, to them, academics were the most important aspect of their adolescent's life. While nearly 60 percent of parents also reported they were concerned about the consequences of adolescent sexual behavior, the majority (84 percent) did not believe their own child was sexually active. Yet, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that almost one-half* of ninth through 12th-graders have had sex, suggesting that parents may be hesitant to acknowledge that their teen could be sexually active and exposed to harmful diseases. To help raise awareness about the importance of adolescent health -- including sexual health -- SAM is launching a national campaign today to help educate parents on how to protect their teens from various health risks including hepatitis B.

"Hepatitis B, a highly contagious disease, is one of the diseases highschoolers could be exposed to through sexual contact, tattooing, body piercings, or contact sports," said Dr. Leslie Walker, director of the Section for Adolescent Medicine at Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C. "While routine vaccination for hepatitis B for infants has occurred since 1991, many teens born prior to this date may have been missed. As such, SAM recommends that all teens be vaccinated against hepatitis B to catch up and ensure they are protected."

When it comes to communication, most parents today (90 percent) reported that they are talking to their adolescents about sexual behavior and more than half (62 percent) reported feeling extremely or very comfortable doing so. Interestingly, on average, parents began these conversations about sexual behavior when their adolescents were about 12 years old. Results from the survey also found that three out of four parents reportedly had personally discussed sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with their teens. Not surprisingly, HIV/AIDS was the most common topic (88 percent) in those discussions. While it is good news that parents discussed STIs with their adolescents, more than half (54 percent) did not talk about hepatitis B, a disease that can be 100 times more contagious than HIV.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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