It can be difficult for parents of teenagers to come to terms with the fact their kids may have sex, particularly given widespread concerns about the consequences of teen sexual activity. In fact, a new study from North Carolina State University shows that many parents think that their children aren’t interested in sex – but that everyone else’s kids are.
“Parents I interviewed had a very hard time thinking about their own teen children as sexually desiring subjects,” says Dr. Sinikka Elliott, an assistant professor of sociology at NC State and author of the study. In other words, parents find it difficult to think that their teenagers want to have sex.
“At the same time,” Elliott says, “parents view their teens’ peers as highly sexual, even sexually predatory.” By taking this stance, the parents shift the responsibility for potential sexual activity to others – attributing any such behavior to peer pressure, coercion or even entrapment.
For example, Elliott says, parents of teenage boys were often concerned that their sons may be lured into sexual situations by teenage girls who, the parents felt, may use sex in an effort to solidify a relationship. The parents of teenage girls, meanwhile, expressed fears that their daughters would be taken advantage of by sexually driven teenage boys.
These beliefs contribute to stereotypes of sexual behavior that aren’t helpful to parents or kids.
“By using sexual stereotypes to absolve their children of responsibility for sexual activity, the parents effectively reinforce those same stereotypes,” Elliott says.
Parents’ use of these stereotypes also paints teen heterosexual relationships in an unflattering, adversarial light, Elliott says and notes the irony of this: “Although parents assume their kids are heterosexual, they don’t make heterosexual relationships sound very appealing.”
A paper describing the study is published in the May issue of Symbolic Interaction. Elliott is also the author of the forthcoming book, Not My Kid: Parents and Teen Sexuality, which will by published by New York University Press.
Source: ScienceDaily (May 3, 2010)
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A new book, The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development, dispels many common myths about adolescence with the latest scientific findings on the physical, emotional, cognitive, sexual and spiritual development of teens. [Book is available for download through the Center of Adolescent Health website at Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health (CURRENTLY FREE).] Authors Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard from the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provide useful tips and strategies for real-life situations and experiences from bullying, to nutrition and sexuality.
Created in partnership with an alliance of youth-serving professionals, The Teen Years Explained is science-based and accessible. The practical and colorful guide to healthy adolescent development is an essential resource for parents and all people who work with young people.
“Whether you have five minutes or five hours, you will find something useful in the guide,” said McNeely. “We want both adults and young people to understand the changes – what is happening and why – so everyone can enjoy this second decade of life.”
Popular Myths about Teenagers:
Myth: Teens are bigger risk-takers and thrill-seekers than adults. Fact: Teens perceive more risk than adults do in certain areas, such as the chance of getting into an accident if they drive with a drunk driver.
Myth: Young people only listen to their friends. Fact: Young people report that their parents or a caring adult are their greatest influence – especially when it comes to sexual behavior.
Myth: Adolescents live to push your buttons. Fact: Adolescents may view conflict as a way of expressing themselves, while adults take arguments personally.
Myth: When you’re a teenager, you can eat whatever you want and burn it off. Fact: Obesity rates have tripled for adolescents since 1980.
Myth: Teens don’t need sleep. Fact: Teens need as much sleep or more than they got as children – 9 to 10 hours is optimum.
Three years in the making, the guide came about initially at the request of two of the Center’s partners, the Maryland Mentoring Partnership and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who felt there was a need in the community for an easily navigated and engaging look at adolescent development.
“Add The Teen Years Explained to the ‘must-read’ list,” said Karen Pittman, director of the Forum for Youth Investment. “In plain English, the book explains the science behind adolescent development and challenges and empowers adults to invest more attention and more time to young people.”
The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development will be available for purchase on April 10 through Amazon.com. Electronic copies will also be available for download through the Center of Adolescent Health website atJohns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health (CURRENTLY FREE).
The Center for Adolescent Health is a Prevention Research Center at the Bloomberg School of Public Health funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is committed to assisting urban youth in becoming healthy and productive adults. Together with community partners, the Center conducts research to identify the needs and strengths of young people, and evaluates and assists programs to promote their health and well-being. The Center’s mission is to work in partnership with youth, people who work with youth, public policymakers and program administrators to help urban adolescents develop healthy adult lifestyles.
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health