Primary Sources: A National Survey of Adolescents and Parents and a Girls Incorporated Study

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Teen daughter talking with her parents.

Youth attitudes about sex and abstinence are more heavily influenced by parents and peers than by school or educational programs. Nevertheless, such programs tend to increase adolescents' communication about sex and abstinence with both parents and peers, say the authors of "National Survey of Adolescents and Their Parents: Attitudes and Opinions About Sex and Abstinence." To learn about the public's views regarding sex, abstinence and abstinence messages, the Administration for Children and Families funded the study, which examines attitudes of 1,000 adolescents. The researchers also surveyed one parent per teen: whichever parent reported being "most knowledgeable" about sexual health. The authors note that the nationally representative sample of teens can be used to draw inferences about adolescents in the United States. But because parent respondents were not randomly selected, the study cannot be used to draw inferences about parents of adolescents.

Teenage girls' ethnicity, socioeconomic status and family structure (whether they come from a one- or two-parent household) do not adversely affect their sexual behavior as some previous studies and popular perceptions suggest. So say the authors of "Findings From the Girls Incorporated Girls Shape the Future Study: Early Predictors of Girls' Adolescent Sexual Activity." Rather, acceptance of premarital or teenage sex, individual or peer substance abuse, and peer pressure to have sex increase the likelihood that girls will have sex. The increase occurs regardless of girls' ethnicity, socioeconomic status or family structure. The authors also found that girls who have a good relationship with their mothers and get good grades in reading were less likely to have sex. The study's sample of more than 800 adolescent girls included relatively high proportions of African Americans and Hispanics and a high proportion of girls who reported receiving free or reduced-price school lunches. The report on the three- year study was published in February by Girls Inc. in collaboration with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of these and other publications.

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