Mothers Who Discuss Condom Usage, AIDS With Their Children Often Have Greater Knowledge of the Subjects
Mothers who talk to their children about condoms often have a "greater knowledge about sexuality and AIDS" and "less conservative attitudes about adolescent sexuality" than those who do not have such conversations, according to a new study in the August issue of Pediatrics. Researchers from the HIV/AIDS Prevention, Surveillance and Epidemiology division of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention interviewed 907 mothers of adolescents ages 14 to 17 to study "factors associated with mother-adolescent communication about condoms." Each mother was given a questionnaire that asked whether she and her child had "ever talked about condoms" and measured her knowledge of HIV, STDs and sex. Mothers were also questioned regarding attitudes toward sex during adolescence, level of "religiousness," perception of whether their child is "at risk" for HIV/AIDS or STDs and belief of condoms' effectiveness. Researchers also asked the mothers about their perception of their ability to talk "openly and freely" about sex and condoms and whether they "endorsed" condoms.
Seventy-three percent of the mothers surveyed had talked with their child about condoms, with communication occurring more frequently among women who were "black, younger, wealthier [and] better educated" and who did not live with the child's father. Mothers who believed they had "enough information" to discuss condoms and AIDS and mothers who were more informed about sex and AIDS were more likely to speak to their children about condoms and sex. Women who believed condoms to be effective, those with "less conservative" attitudes, those who perceived their adolescent to be at risk for STDs, those who were comfortable discussing sex and those with "better general communication skills" were also more likely to discuss sex and condoms with their children.
The researchers conclude that physicians should aid parent-child communication about sex by providing parents with "the information and the skills to help them discuss sexuality and condom use with their children early, before sexual activity begins." Doctors should also inform parents that discussions on condom use and sexuality are "appropriate" and tell parents "about the realities of adolescent sexual behavior." The researchers suggest that if parents are having difficulty talking to their children about sex and condoms, doctors could point them toward programs that teach communication skills. The researchers conclude, "Parents who communicate effectively about sexuality and safer sex behaviors can influence their adolescents' risk-taking behavior. Health care providers, particularly physicians, can facilitate this communication by providing to parents information about the sexual behavior of adolescents, the risks that adolescents encounter, condom use, condom effectiveness and how to discuss condoms" (Miller/Whitaker, Pediatrics, August 2001).