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New Poll on Parent-Child Communication Released for Let’s Talk Month

According to the results of the poll Let’s Talk: Are Parents Tackling Crucial Conversations about Sex? 82 percent of parents are talking to their children about topics related to sex and sexuality. The poll, conducted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Latino and Adolescent Family Health (CLAFH) at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work, surveyed 1,111 nationally representative mothers and fathers of youth ages 10–18 to measure parents’ attitudes toward talking with their children about sex.[1] The release of the results coincides with October being Let’s Talk Month, the goal of which is to promote conversation between parents and children about sex and sexuality-related topics. An annual campaign coordinated by Advocates for Youth, Let’s Talk Month is an opportunity for religious groups, schools, the media, and other community groups to plan programs that encourage conversation between parents and children about sexuality.[2]
 
While most parents have conversations with their adolescents about sex-related topics, including relationships, their own values, and when sex should or should not take place, fewer parents talk with their children about tougher sexual health topics.[3] According to the poll, 74 percent of parents have talked with their teens about “saying no,” while only 60 percent of parents have talked about birth control.[4] “The survey shows that some parents are still uncomfortable talking about harder topics . . . and can use help having these conversations,” comments Leslie Kantor, national director of education for Planned Parenthood.[5] Young people ages15–24 make up about a quarter of sexually active people, but account for almost half of new cases of sexually transmitted diseases each year.[6]
 
However difficult some of these topics may prove to be for parents, youth say that they want to hear from their parents about sex, and it would be easier for them to make decisions related to sex if they could have open conversation with their parents.[7] “We also know from previous studies that young people whose parents effectively communicate about sex are more likely to delay sex, have fewer partners, and use contraception if they do have sex. It’s clear that it is extremely important for parents to lay the groundwork early, and talk to their kids often and openly,” notes Vincent Guilamos-Ramos, co-director of CLAFH.[8]
 
Even though 94 percent of parents say they feel confident about their ability to influence whether or not their child has sex, 57 percent of parents feel only somewhat comfortable or very uncomfortable talking with their kids about it.[9] While some discomfort may come from generational differences, most parents polled do not feel their own parents did a good job of educating them about sex nor did they want to have conversations about sex with their parents.[10] However, the desire of today’s adolescents to have these conversations and the fact that parents generally underestimate the behaviors their children are involved in demonstrate the necessity of such conversations.[11]
 
Let’s Talk Month and the concurrent poll results also point to the need for conversations about sexuality within specific communities—particularly Latino families. While Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth have produced general resources and programming to help facilitate these conversations, CLAFH is specifically targeting Latino families through their Families Talking Together (FTT) program. FTT is an English- and Spanish-language program that aims to support communication between Latino parents and their children.[12] Latinas have much higher rates of unintended teen pregnancy, contract HIV at three times the rate of whites, and are significantly less likely to use contraception. “These findings show that, more than ever, Latino families need to start talking about these more difficult issues. Effective communication begins at home,” notes Guilamos-Ramos.[13]
 
 

[1] Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health, “NYU Silver School of Social Work’s Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) and Planned Parenthood Release Findings of New Poll Gauging Parents’ Comfort Level Talking to their Kids about Sex,” accessed 13 October 2011, <http://www.clafh.org/ah/press-releases/ >.
[2] “Every October is Let’s Talk Month!” Advocates for Youth, accessed 11 October 2011, <http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=887&Itemid>.
[3] Leslie Kantor and Vincent Guilamos-Ramos, “New ‘Let’s Talk Month’ Poll Remind Us That Sex Ed Begins with Parents,” 10 October 2011, accessed 11 October 2011, <http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2011/10/10/new-lets-talk-month-poll-reminds-us-that-sex-ed-begins-with-parents>.
[4] “New Poll: Parents Are Talking with Their Kids about Sex but Often Not Tackling Harder Issues,” Planned Parenthood, 3 October 2011, accessed 11 October 2011, <http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/politics-policy-issues/lets-talk-month-38019.htm>.
[5] Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health, “NYU Silver School of Social Work’s Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) and Planned Parenthood Release Findings.”
[6] Ibid.
[7] Kantor and Guilamos-Ramos, “New ‘Let’s Talk Month’ Poll Remind Us That Sex Ed Begins with Parents.”
[8] Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health, “NYU Silver School of Social Work’s Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) and Planned Parenthood Release Findings.”
[9] New Poll: Parents are Talking With Their Kids About Sex but Often Not Talking Harder Issues”; Kantor and Guilamos-Ramos, “New ‘Let’s Talk Month’ Poll Remind Us That Sex Ed Begins with Parents.”
[10] New Poll: Parents are Talking With Their Kids About Sex but Often Not Talking Harder Issues”; Esther J. Cepeda, “Talking to Kids about Sex: Conversations Worth Having,” Seattle Times, 9 October 2011, accessed 11 October 2011, <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2016439742_cepada10.html>.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Destiny Lopez, “Let’s Talk to Our Kids about Sex,” Huffington Post, 4 October 2011, accessed 18 October 2011, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/destiny-lopez/lets-talk-to-our-kids-abo_b_992092.html>.
[13] Ibid.

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