Survey focuses on communication between teens, parents

October 18, 2012

Sex is usually a taboo topic between family members but not in the Donath household.

“My children did and still do, at 26 and 29, talk to me about sex,” said Robin Donath, a professor for the School of Social Work. “We had many conversations, some with my daughter alone, and some with my son, but many of the conversations were during dinner.”

Donath’s testament of open conversation between parents and their children about sex echoes a sentiment from a recent study.

The NYU Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health, in collaboration with Planned Parenthood and Family Circle Magazine, conducted a national survey that focused on communication between teens and parents about sex and sexual health.

The survey, which was released Oct. 2, revealed that teens are less comfortable than their parents when having these conversations and that parents need to discuss pregnancy and STD prevention more often with their teenage children.

The participants included 2,000 parents and teens.

Donath’s children go against the norm that the survey implies, as she explains that her daughter began questioning her about sex since the age of three.

“I have to add that my daughter went to an all-girls school where they taught them to put condoms on [using a banana] starting in fifth grade, and her school was the first in New York City to provide condoms in the nurses office for the girls to take without any questions asked,” Donath said. “Both my children had environments that were supportive about discussing sex openly.”

The survey was commissioned in support of Let’s Talk Month, which is a part of a national effort targeted at supporting communication between parents and their teens about sex.

“Our hope is that we can reach parents of teens and assist their efforts in raising healthy teens,” said Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, an NYU professor and co-director of CLAFH. “CLAFH wants what all families want– — to ensure that teens remain healthy, avoid unplanned pregnancies, do well in school and work towards a productive future.”

According to the survey, 42 percent of the parents claimed that they have discussed how to reject sexual advances with their teens many times, while only 27 percent of the teens agreed with that claim.

Furthermore, 34 percent of the teens said they have never spoken to their parents about rejecting sex or did so only once. An even smaller percentage said that they never planned to talk about sex-related topics with their parents in the future.

NYU students did not seem surprised about the survey’s findings and can actually relate to them.

“I don’t find them surprising at all,” CAS Sophomore Alma Gonzalez said. “Most of the time kids have to resort to the Internet to find out info or [to] their health classes [for information] and some health classes don’t go as in depth as they should.”

Steinhardt sophomore Jenna Longman concurs with the survey.

“I definitely agree with the section that says that they wouldn’t talk to their parents about [sex] because I wouldn’t,” Longman said.

Donath said she cannot relate to these results, saying that her children were very comfortable talking to her about sex and still are.

“My kids and I often discuss, sometimes with lots of humor, many of the ‘sex’ discussions we have had over the years,” she said. “We [also] discuss STD’s as well quite openly. My son comes to me for info as well, much more than he does to his father. They trust that I know the information.”

The results of this survey will be used to inform a story that will be featured in Family Circle magazine, whose readership of 13 million is comprised mostly of mothers  with teenagechildren. Dr. Guilamo-Ramos said he would be incorporating the results into his teaching as well.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 17 print edition. Tanay Hudson is a contributing writer. Email her at university@nyunews.com.

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