'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: New Dominican law OKs abortion if life at risk

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.

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User comments : 5

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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.

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