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Close-knit Family, Community Key to Teens Delaying Sex
  • Posted June 6, 2024

Close-knit Family, Community Key to Teens Delaying Sex

Teenagers who are part of close-knit neighborhoods and families are less likely to have sex at a young age, a new study has found.

On the other hand, teens' schools have less influence on their sexual behavior, researchers report.

“Our results echo other studies' findings on the importance of families and neighborhoods in protecting youth from risky behaviors, and show that feeling connected to one's local community can mitigate sexual risky behaviors,” said lead researcher Dr. Camila Cribb Fabersunne, a pediatrician with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Teens whose parents restricted their dating were 55% less likely to have sex by 10th grade, results showed.

So were kids who spend less time alone when home (8% less likely), and who had tight-knit families (7% less likely).

Teenagers from close-knit neighborhoods were 10% less likely to have sex by 10th grade, results show.

However, no school factors were associated with delaying sex until later in high school, researchers found.

Meanwhile, teens from disadvantaged neighborhoods with less education were about 24% more likely to have sex by 10th grade, researchers added.

“Parents should not underestimate the impact they can have on their children,” said senior researcher Dr. Tracy Richmond, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

“Simple parenting strategies like limiting dating can make a big difference on the timing of their child's first sexual encounter, which in turn can influence their child's overall health and well-being,” Richmond added.

This is the first known study to evaluate how children's social connections can affect their sexual behavior, Cribb Fabersunne said.

About 23% of U.S. children have sex by the 10th grade, researchers said in background notes. Starting sex at a young age increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancies and depression, prior research has shown.

The results, published June 4 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, show that school-provided messages and education about sexual behavior have little impact, Cribb Fabersunne said.

Instead, public health officials should focus resources on strategies involving families and neighborhoods, like establishing community-based health centers for youth and supporting parents in conversations with teenagers around sex.

“It's about investing in neighborhoods, such as adding green space, safety features and transit, so parents can be more available to their kids,” Cribb Fabersunne said in a UCSF news release. “Isolation and premature independence lead children to risky behavior, and that happens when we disenfranchise low-income neighborhoods.”

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more on teenage sexuality.

SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco, news release, June 4, 2024

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