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Family Communication and Teenagers' Contraceptive Use
Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., Roberta Herceg-Baron, Judy Shea and David Webb
Family Planning Perspectives
Vol. 16, No. 4 (Jul. - Aug., 1984), pp. 163-170
Published by: Guttmacher Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2134897
Page Count: 8
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Improving communication about sex and birth control between parents and their children has often been cited as a means to encourage young people to use contraceptives more effectively. In an attempt to test this hypothesis, we interviewed 290 adolescents at family planning clinics in southeastern Pennsylvania three times in the course of 15 months about their communication with their families and their use of contraceptives. At the time of their first clinic visit, two-fifths of the teenagers said that their mothers knew that they had gone to the clinic; this proportion rose to almost three-fifths six months later and to about three-quarters at the end of 15 months. However, the proportion of teenagers who said that they had discussed sex or birth control with their mothers remained almost the same; the proportion who said that they would never discuss such topics with their mothers also remained fairly constant. The teenagers whose mothers knew of their clinic attendance at the time of their first visit were no more likely to have had extensive conversations with their mothers about sex or contraception than were the teenagers whose mothers found out afterwards. Among a subsample of the mothers of these young women, fewer than one-third said that they had ever discussed their daughters' sexual activity with them. There was only a modest level of correspondence between the mothers' responses and their daughters' replies; for the most part, the mothers thought that they were much more communicative about sex and birth control than their daughters perceived them to be. Although there were some indications that there was greater communication about sex among the teenagers who were more effective users of contraceptives, the better communication was apparently a consequence of effective contraceptive use rather than a cause of it: Teenagers who spoke little with their mothers about sex or birth control were no more or less likely to be effective users than were those who communicated well with their mothers. In all, family communication about these topics appeared to count for very little with regard to levels of contraceptive use among sexually active teenagers.
Family Planning Perspectives © 1984 Guttmacher Institute