This study explores how parental involvement in childhood influences later sexual activity in the teen years. IMFC Research Fellow Dr. Frank Jones examined childhood environments including parent-child interaction, and inter-parent relationships, determining correlations between childhood experience and teen sexual choices. The findings are grouped by influencing factors starting with parental substance use, family structure, parent-child interaction and parental community involvement. The data was taken from Statistics Canada’s National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, comparing responses from parents and their children age six to eleven, and then again eight years later as teens. The data shows that 39.9 per cent of teens age 14 to 19 have had consensual sexual intercourse, which is 41.6 per cent of girls and 38.1 percent of boys. Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces have the highest percentage of sexually active teens.
Among the more interesting findings:
- Childhood home environments do have an important effect on teen decisions about sexual activity
- There is a relationship between parent behaviours (drinking, smoking) and future teen sexual activity
- Church-going children are less likely to have sex as teens; still 30 per cent of children in the pews are sexually active in their teen years
- Family structure has a bearing on teenage sexual activity
Adolescent sexual behaviour places teens at risk of ill health, unintended pregnancy and emotional concerns. The earlier teens initiate sex, the greater the risk. Conversely, delaying sexual activity in the teen years significantly reduces these risks. Our results confirm that parents are influential (sometimes unintentionally) in teen sexual decision making.
Our top recommendations:
- Parents should be the prime sex educator. Parents are the most influential force in a teens life
- Parents should work to create a healthy, stable home characterized by warmth, open communication and clear expectations
- Parents should model a healthy lifestyle and positive choices. Your children are watching
- Sex education should engage parents and recognize their role as the primary sex educators
- Sex education should acknowledge that girls face unique risks compared to boys when it comes to early sexual engagement
Download the full report below