Parental Influence and Teen Pregnancy (page 2)

By — National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
Updated on Jul 26, 2007

What it all means

The research presented here has clear implications for parents, policymakers, and those working with young people and parents.

Parent/Child relationships matter most of all. Parents who (1) clearly communicate their values and expectations to their children, (2) express their concerns and love for them early and often, and (3) exercise supervision — including their child’s selection of friends and role models — raise children who are more likely to avoid early sexual activity, pregnancy, and parenthood than those parents who do not. Research supports the conclusion that the overall strength and closeness of parent/child relationships seems to be the best protection of all.19

Talking is not enough. It is important for parents to discuss sex, love, and relationships directly with their children. Teens make it clear that they want to hear from their parents on these topics, even if they don’t always act like it. However, simply talking with their teens about the risks of early sex and pregnancy is not enough. Parents need to become heavily involved in their children’s lives in order to delay first sex, increase contraceptive use, or decrease the risk of pregnancy.20

Use the media. Many parents say that they want to have discussions with their children about sex, love, values, and relationships but find starting such conversations awkward at best. Parents should consider using television, radio, movies, music videos, and magazines as prompts. In the media, sex often has no meaning, abstinence and contraception are mentioned rarely if at all, unplanned pregnancy seldom happens, and few characters having sex seem to be married or even especially committed to each other. Tell your children what you think about these messages and ask what they think about them. If certain programs or movies offend you, say so, and explain why. Encourage your kids to think critically; ask them what they think about the programs they watch, the magazines they read, and the music they listen to.

Adults support an “abstinence first” approach. Policymakers and program leaders developing or running programs for youth should note that the majority of American adults support an abstinence-first approach. This approach stresses abstinence as the first — and best — option for teens but also strongly advocates giving young people contraceptive information and services.

Make boys and young men part of the equation. As noted above, a majority of teens believe that boys often receive the message that sex and pregnancy are not a big deal. This suggests that a “double standard” — one that encourages girls to abstain from sex while offering teen boys a wink and a nod — may be alive and well. Those concerned about adolescent pregnancy must expand their efforts to reach boys and young men and parents must be direct with their male children about respect for girls and women, responsibility, and expected standards of behavior.

Recognize the connection between adolescent pregnancy and abuse. Efforts currently underway to inform and educate practitioners and policymakers about the connection between physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and teen pregnancy should be extended and strengthened.

For more information. Much of the information in this research brief is adapted from the National Campaign publication, Parent
Power: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Help Prevent Teen Pregnancy (available at www. Parent Power is divided into three sections: (1) what research says about parental influence, (2) what teens want parents to know about preventing teen pregnancy, and (3) tips for parents.

About the Putting What Works to Work project Putting What Works to Work (PWWTW) is a project of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy funded, in part, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Through PWWTW, the Campaign translates research on teen pregnancy prevention and related issues into user-friendly materials for practitioners, policymakers, and advocates.

As part of this initiative, the Science Says series summarizes recent research in short, user-friendly briefs  For more information, please visit

About the National Campaign
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supported largely by private
donations. The Campaign’s mission is to improve the well-being of children, youth, and families by reducing teen pregnancy.
Our goal is to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy by one-third between 1996 and 2005.

Funding information
This research brief was supported by cooperative agreement number U88/ CCU322139-01 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent
the official views of CDC.

Author information
This research brief was written by Bill Albert, Senior Director of Communications, Publications, and Technology at the
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

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