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Study: Teen-mom talks on safe sex increase condom use

graphic October 2, 1998
Web posted at: 2:05 p.m. EDT (1805 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Teen-agers are much more likely to use condoms if their mothers talk to them about safe sex while they're still virgins, according to a new federal study.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said teens were three times more likely to use a condom the first time they had sex and thereafter than teens whose mothers didn't talk to them at all or talked to them after their first sexual experience.

"When condoms were used at first intercourse, the adolescent was 20 times more likely to use condoms at their next intercourse and continually through their sexual experiences," said the study's author, CDC sociologist Kim Miller.

She also said discussions about sex between mothers and teens could help prevent the spread of HIV in young adults. Researchers did not study a father's role in safe sex.

"Parents are in a unique position to talk to their children because they know their children the best," Miller said. "They can shape attitudes and behaviors, and socialize adolescents to become sexually healthy adults by providing information and importing skills to make responsible decisions."

The study was based on interviews with 372 sexually-active teens in New York, Montgomery, Alabama and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Just 122 teens had discussed safe sex with their moms before their first sexually experience while 250 either never talked to their moms or talked to them after they first had sex.

The research found the average age for mothers to talk to their sons about safe sex was 12.9. For girls, 13.5. The average age the teens first had sex was 13.8.

Authors said the study underlined the need for safe sex information to be included in sex education in schools.

"Programs that emphasize abstinence only may not prepare adolescents and young adults to use condoms for their first sexual experience, the researchers said. "And this, in turn, may increase the likelihood that they will later engage in unprotected, and thus risky, sexual behavior."

Heather Farish of the conservative Family Research Council said it was parents, rather than teachers who were talking to children about sex in the study.

"Parents should definitely be having dialogue with their kids about sex," Farish said. "We would personally say as an organization that abstinence is what should be communicated to kids, but that really is up to the parents."

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