Fathers’ parenting behavior plays a role in the sexual behavior of their adolescent children, according to study results published online.
While it is well established that parenting is closely linked to a teenager’s sexual health and reproductive outcomes, it is mothers that, to date, have drawn most of the attention of researchers, according to New York University professor Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD, and colleagues. Far less is known, the researchers noted, about how fathers’ specific parenting behaviors influence different areas of adolescent sexual risk behavior.
Using a database search, the researchers identified 13 articles, published between 1980 and 2011, which focused on paternal influence and sexual behaviors of youth.
“Findings suggest paternal factors are independently associated with adolescent sexual behavior relative to maternal factors,” the researchers wrote. “Paternal communication about sex was most consistently associated with adolescent sexual behavior, whereas paternal attitudes about sex was least associated.”
The study calls for more rigorous research and depicts the current shortage of father-specific studies as a passed-up chance to improve the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents. The absence of sufficient father-focused research also contributes to a lack of understanding of the ways that fathers may differ from mothers in how they monitor, supervise and communicate with their teenage children, and how they can make a greater difference.
Guilamo-Ramos and colleagues provide recommendations for primary care providers and public health practitioners, including how to better incorporate fathers into interventions designed to reduce sexual risk behavior at a critical developmental stage.
Successful father-based interventions, the study concludes, potentially represent an additional mechanism to influence teen sexual behavior and expand the opportunity to support adolescent health and well-being.
“Our research suggests that fathers matter when it comes to their adolescent children’s sexual behavior,” Guilamo-Ramos said. “Moving forward, more attention to the role of fathers in shaping adolescent health and wellbeing is needed. Fathers represent a critical missed opportunity to support the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and represent an additional mechanism to influence teenage sexual behavior.”
: The researchers reported no relevant financial disclosures.