Parent-adolescent communication about sex

Talking with teens about sex-related topics can positively affect safer sex behaviors among adolescents. So, let’s talk about sex!

Parents as agents of sexual socialization

Parents may have an important role in communicating sexual information to their teens. They can have a lot of influence on adolescents’ sexual attitudes, beliefs and values. Also, parents could use open and honest communication about sexual health issues. As a result, adolescents may imitate this communication style in their own sexual relationships.

Safer sex behavior among adolescents

This study summarized results of 52 previous studies to examine if parent-adolescent communication about sex is related to safer sex behavior among youth. The authors focused on safer sex behavior (for example contraceptive and condom use), because of the importance of these behaviors to the prevention of STIs, HIV infections and unintended pregnancies.

Protective role of sexual communication

Results of the study showed that sexual communication with parents plays a small protective role in safer sex behavior among adolescents. This protective relationship was found both for use of condoms and contraceptives and for both younger and older adolescents. Moreover, the relationship between sexual communication and safer sex behavior was stronger for girls than boys and for youth who discussed sexual topics with their mother versus father.


  • Talk with your teen about sexual topics. Try to have open, supportive and intimate conversations about sexual health and related topics. For example, talk about healthy and respectful relationships, the consequences of risky sexual behaviors and factual information about ways to prevent HIV, STDs and pregnancy.
  • Although conversations about sexuality can be embarrassing or uncomfortable for both adolescents and parents, remember that parental communication about sex can be protective for youth.

More information

Widman, L., Choukas-Bradley, S., Noar, S. M., Nesi, J., & Garrett, K. (2016). Parent-adolescent sexual communication and adolescent safer sex behavior: a meta-analysis. JAMA pediatrics, 170(1), 52-61.

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