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Fathers' Role Crucial in Young Adults Sexual Health

Update Date: Sep 01, 2012 09:34 AM EDT

It is mostly mothers who give children the necessary insights about life and sex education, with targeted prompting and guidance; fathers could also do the same but with an early start, claims a new study.

The study analyzed the responses of parents to a public health campaign about the benefits of parent-child conversations about delaying sexual activity. 

"Our findings show that fathers can increase communication frequency on a potentially awkward topic. Then, as their children age and even more important and sensitive topics come up, these fathers will have developed the kind of relationship with their children that can help conversation flow more smoothly," lead study author Jonathan Blitstein, Ph.D., a research psychologist at RTI International, an independent, not-for-profit research institute in North Carolina, was quoted as saying by Medical Xpress. 

The study, that lasted for a span of 18-months worked on the data from the Parents Speak Up National Campaign (PSUNC). The analysis revealed that an exposure to multi-media campaign significantly increased the communications skills of fathers of adolescents, when compared to fathers from the control group. This change was not seen in mothers, perhaps because they were already engaged in such conversations with the children.

The authors wrote about the importance of having such conversation with children, citing claims made in the previous studies that encouraged young adults to practice healthier sexual behaviors such as using contraceptives.

"Parental emotional bonds with children, parental monitoring of adolescent behavior and parental communication about sex are all linked with better sexual health outcomes among youth," said Aubrey Spriggs Madkour, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of global community health and behavioral sciences at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. 

"Public service announcements or PSAs can reach fathers 'where they are,' and hold great promise for engaging them in these important discussions with their children," she said.

Madkour pointed out that for the current study, campaign materials were sent directly to the parents and they also received prompts to watch them. 

"As a next step in the research, researchers will need to demonstrate that in real world conditions, where parents may or may not see or dedicate their attention to the PSAs, the effects of the campaign are also positive," Madkour said. 

Blitstein noted that the findings of the current study could pave way for effective communication around other risky behaviors too. 

"It's a great opportunity for fathers to get more involved. So why don't they? We don't really have that answer, but we shouldn't feed the belief that mothers have sole responsibility."

The study appears in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

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