'My kid wouldn't do that' -- study shows parents' difficulty with teen sexuality

May 03, 2010

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.

" 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 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 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 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 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."

Explore further: Teen vaccinations up but HPV coverage remains low overall

More information: A paper describing the study, "Parents' Constructions of Teen Sexuality: Sex Panics, Contradictory Discourses, and Social Inequality," is published in the May issue of Symbolic Interaction.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Children's sex affects parents' marital status

May 23, 2006

Parents with a boy and a girl are more likely to stay married, or get married if they were unmarried when their children were born, than those with two boys or two girls according to new research from ANU economist Dr Andrew ...

Parents' sexuality influences adoption choices

Apr 03, 2009

A couple's sexual orientation determines whether or not they prefer to adopt a boy or a girl. Gay men are more likely to have a gender preference for their adopted child whereas heterosexual men are the least likely. What's ...

Learning to talk to teens about sex -- while at work

Jul 11, 2008

Sex is one of the most difficult topics a parent can bring up with an adolescent, but a new study finds that parents who are taught specific communication skills can more readily tackle these conversations and sustain them ...

1 in 3 boys heavy porn users, study shows

Feb 23, 2007

Boys aged 13 and 14 living in rural areas, are the most likely of their age group to access pornography, and parents need to be more aware of how to monitor their children’s viewing habits, according to a new University ...

TV: Not the only channel to early sex

Nov 24, 2008

Watching plenty of television combined with low self-esteem, poor relationships with parents, and low academic achievement are some of the factors that may add up to young people having sex before the age of 15. Alternatively, ...

Recommended for you

Are Millennials redefining adulthood?

55 minutes ago

Once upon a time, a spouse, children and a home were among the most typical hallmarks of adulthood. But that definition may be changing, says one researcher involved in an ongoing University of Arizona study ...

U.S. suffers from lifespan inequality, says researcher

1 hour ago

The United States has done worse than other wealthy countries at improving health for working-age adults while it has performed about the same in reducing mortality at ages over 65, according to new Stanford ...

Teen vaccinations up but HPV coverage remains low overall

14 hours ago

(HealthDay)—From 2012 to 2013, coverage for adolescents aged 13 to 17 years increased for all routinely recommended vaccinations. Increases ranged from 1.4 percentage points for at least one tetanus toxoid, ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jonnyboy
1 / 5 (1) May 03, 2010
duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
mastergmr
5 / 5 (1) May 03, 2010
I love how sometimes people take the most obvious situations and make it seem so 'scientific'
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2010
hypocrisy of the highest order. Of course all of the parents explored sexuality as their children do now. The raging hormones of the young is a natural fact of our species. Accept it.
bottomlesssoul
not rated yet May 04, 2010
@skepticus
hypocrisy of the highest order. Of course all of the parents explored sexuality as their children do now. The raging hormones of the young is a natural fact of our species
It's hypocrisy only an individual level and only when it happens to a few people. When it is a wide scale phenomena it's science.

It's an interesting question. Everyone explored their sexuality in their youth and for some reason a large number of these people as parents are unable to attribute normal human function to their children. It might be being unable to detect changes in their own children. There are other reports about blindness to obesity.
Klaus
not rated yet May 04, 2010
I love how sometimes people take the most obvious situations and make it seem so 'scientific'


I think it's likely that every imaginable situation can be expressed scientifically.