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Parents and Teens Less Embarrassed by Sex Talk

Update Date: Oct 14, 2014 02:52 PM EDT

The topic of sex can be embarrassing for some parent-teen pairs. However, sexual education for teenagers is vital because it can prevent unwanted pregnancies and venereal diseases. In a new study, researchers examined the ritual of having "the talk" in families and found that parents and teens are less embarrassed and more willing to discuss sex.

For this study, the team from Planned Parenthood and New York University's Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health interviewed 1,663 parent-children pairs. The sample was considered to be nationally representative. The children were between the ages of nine and 21.

Overall, eight out of 10 young adults stated that they talked with their parents about sexuality. In roughly 50 percent of this group, the parents reported having the sex talk when their children were 10-years-old. 80 percent of the parents initiated the discussion by the time their children turned 13.

Despite these high rates, the team found that parents did not continue to talk about sex frequently. On one hand, 80 percent of the parents had talked about the basics of sex, how to deal with peer pressure and how to stay safe online. On the other hand, more than 20 percent of the parents did not talk about other kinds of sexual health topics with their children when they were between 15 and 21-years-old. These parents did not discuss topics such as, different ways of saying no to sex, birth control options and where to get more information on sex health.

"The great news is that parents and teens are talking about these topics," stated Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, reported by TIME. "Most parents and their children report starting these conversations before the age of 14, and they are talking about topics like peer pressure, puberty and staying safe online. The bad news is that people don't necessarily have a lot of conversations, so [it] doesn't become ongoing."

The researchers added that even though parents were more open to having the sex talk, they still did not have a clear stance on virginity. 61 percent of the parents wanted teens and young adults to have sex when they could handle the responsibility. 42 percent wanted young people to wait till marriage. Only 52 percent of the parents talked about their sexual values and beliefs with their children. The researchers added that due to changes in how young people interact with one another, parents might have to use different tactics to bring up and converse about sex.

"We are very committed to ensuring that parents are the primary sex educators of their own kids," said Kantor. "Use TV as an opportunity. Even if the show is sending a terrible message, it gives you a chance to get in there with something else. For example, asking, "Is this what people look like at your school? Not everyone is size two.'"

Planned Parenthood has chat and text education programs that allow people to converse with someone in real time.

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