Fear of parents impedes teen birth control

May 19, 2015

More than two-thirds of teenagers who participated in a recent national survey said that the main reason they don’t use birth control is fear of parental discovery, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

More than two-thirds of teenagers who participated in a recent national survey said that the main reason they don’t use birth control is fear of parental discovery, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

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When researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 501 adolescents aged 13 to 17 years, 68% agreed with the statement, “The primary reason why teens don’t use birth control or protection is because they are afraid that that their parents will find out.” By contrast, only 48% of the 1017 adults (aged older than 18 years) surveyed agreed.

The adolescents’ feelings about parents and birth control were somewhat at odds with findings of surveys over the past 20 years in which teenagers have consistently cited parents-rather than peers, partners, or popular culture-as the greatest influence on their decisions about sex, the National Campaign notes.

The survey also revealed a gap between the teenagers’ fears about their parents’ reaction to their sexual activity and the adults’ response to another survey question. Asked how they would react if they found out their teenager was having sex, most of the adults, 68%, replied that they hoped the teenager would talk to them so that they could help ensure that he or she was using birth control.

A much smaller number, 21%, said they hoped the teenager would talk to them so that they could try to convince him or her to stop having sex. Only 4% said they would be angry and express disappointment, and only 3% said they’d rather not know about it.

NEXT: What does the AAP recommend?

 

In its 2014 policy statement and accompanying technical report on contraception for adolescents, the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes the importance of confidentiality and consent issues in providing contraception and other sexual health services to adolescents while acknowledging the complexity of “relationships among parents, confidentiality, and access.”

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“Parents need not be adversaries” with regard to contraception, the policy statement observes, noting that many support minor consent and confidentiality for sexual health services. Pediatricians should provide counseling and contraception as a confidential service to adolescents, as permitted by law, while encouraging teenagers “to involve parents or trusted adults as they are able,” the policy statement recommends.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy encourages parents, for their part, to open an honest conversation with their children about birth control without assuming that such discussion implies tacit approval of sexual activity.