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Parents, Especially Mothers, Have Significant Influence on Teen Sex Decisions

Fewer Teens of Educated Mothers, in 2-Parent Households Have Sex Early

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Want to reduce the risk of your teen getting prematurely involved in sexual activity and prevent her/him from becoming a teen pregnancy statistic? Your own track record as a parent and as a teen can have greater influence on what your child does than you may realize. Parents, particularly mothers, are high influencers of teen behavior as revealed in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) and the report "Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing" released October 2011.

The narrative within the CDC report spells it out clearly and succinctly:

The 2006-2010 NSFG data show clear patterns of sexual experience among teenagers by family and parental characteristics. For both male and female teenagers, a significantly smaller percentage were sexually experienced if:
  • they lived with both parents when they were aged 14
  • their mothers had their first birth at age 20 or over
  • the teenager's mother was a college graduate
  • the teenager lived with both of her/his parents.
For example, 35% of female never-married teenagers who lived with both parents were sexually experienced, compared with 54% among those who lived in any other parental arrangement.
The statistics in NSFG drive home an obvious message about the importance of family life -- one that's by no means new. Graduate from high school and college. Wait to become a parent until after age 20. Remain in a committed marriage and live with your children under one roof.

Parents who provide all of the above to their tween and teen children can significantly reduce the risk of sexual activity and teen pregnancy among their offspring. All these factors work together to bolster teens at a time when a physical (and even sexual) relationship with the opposite sex may seem to offer a closeness and care that is lacking in their home life.

The stats below shed additional light on the NSFG findings for never-married male and female teens age 15-19:

For female teens who've had sex in the past three months:

  • 21% are from two-parent households
  • 32% are from step-parent households
  • 35% are from single parent households
For male teens who've had sex in the past three months:
  • 18% are from two-parent households
  • 32% are from step-parent households
  • 32% are from single parent households
For female teens who've had sexual intercourse at least once:
  • 52% have mothers who gave birth as teens
  • 38% have mothers who gave birth at age 20 or later
  • 50% have mothers with no high school diploma or GED
  • 43% have mothers with a high school diploma or GED
  • 40% have mothers with some college education or higher
  • 35% had both parents living with them at age 14
  • 54% had some other household arrangement at age 14 (step-parent, single parent, no parents)
For male teens who've had sexual intercourse at least once:
  • 56% have mothers who gave birth as teens
  • 37% have mothers who gave birth at age 20 or later
  • 49% have mothers with no high school diploma or GED
  • 47% have mothers with a high school diploma or GED
  • 37% have mothers with some college education or higher
  • 35% had both parents living with them at age 14
  • 53% had some other household arrangement at age 14 (step-parent, single parent, no parents)
Teen mothers and/or teen girls who don't earn a high school diploma are at increased risk of raising daughters who follow in their footsteps. Female teens 19 years of age are nearly 2.5 times more likely to give birth for the first time if their own mother gave birth as a teen compared to females whose mothers delayed first birth until age 20 or later. They are 4 times as likely to give birth for the first time if their mother had no high school diploma or GED as compared to those whose mothers had some college education or higher.

Below is a statistical breakdown of the probability of a first birth by age 19 to teen females:

  • 22% have mothers who gave birth as teenagers
  • 9% have mothers who gave birth at age 20 or later
  • 28% have mothers without a high school diploma or GED
  • 14% have mothers with a high school diploma or GED
  • 7% have mothers with some college or more
  • 7% had both parents in the household at age 14
  • 23% had their mother and stepfather in the household at age 14
  • 23% had some other household arrangement (single parent, no parents.)
This message of 'traditional family values' flies in the face of current trends. Half of all marriages end in divorce and many kids are growing up in single-parent households, especially ones which are headed up by women. The good news is that teen pregnancy and teen birth rates are falling, and teen contraceptive use continues to rise. Parents who continue to maintain good relationships with their teenagers and talk to them about sex and contraception are parents teens can turn to in times of crisis. Although abstinence remains the surest form of preventing teen pregnancy, arming your teen with straightforward information about sex, birth control and contraception is another effective line of defense.

Source:
"Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Vital and Health Statistics, Series 23, Number 31, October 2011.

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