The National Institutes of Health has spent over $1 million training parents how to talk to their kids about sex.
The study is targeting middle-school-aged students and their parents to enable them to have "comprehensive, and medically accurate conversations" about sex. Innovation Research and Training, Inc., a social sciences firm based in Durham, N.C., is conducting the research.
"The disturbingly high rates of early and risky sexual behaviors of adolescents and the glamorization of risky sexual behavior in the media suggest the need for new evidence-based, comprehensive sex education programs for adolescents," according to the grant for the project.
Project researchers say parents are a "major socialization agent" for their children and can be "trained" to teach them about having healthy sexual behavior.
"Unfortunately, many parents do not feel comfortable talking about sex or contraception with their children," the grant states. "One approach to these discussions is to train parents in how to engage with their teenaged children in discussions about the media to increase their children's critical thinking skills. By jointly analyzing media messages, parents can help their children to develop healthy perspective talking about romantic relationships and sexual behavior."
Four hundred middle-school children and their parents are being studied to see if the conversations will enable them to "resist unhealthy media messages" about sex.
"It is hypothesized that this program will enhance parents' feelings of efficacy for and increase the frequency of open, responsive, comprehensive, and medically accurate conversations about sexual health topics, especially parent-child pairs … exposed to sexualized media messages," the grant states.
Researchers said the project is "innovative" because it focuses on "engaging parents in sexual health communication with their children."