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New study Young people who talk about sex with parents are 'significantly more likely' to use contraception

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Young people who talk about sex with their parents when they are 13 are “significantly more likely” to use contraception the first time they have sex, a new report has found.

By age 17, one third of young people report having had sex and almost 90pc said they used contraception the first time, according to a report by the ESRI and HSE, Talking About Sex and Sexual Behaviour Among Young People In Ireland.

However, 40pc of 17-year-olds said they had not spoken to their parents about sex and relationships.

For those who were sexually active, just under 80pc reported “always” using contraception, and 56pc reported using a condom “all the time”.

Nearly a quarter expressed regret regarding the timing of the first time they had sex.

Regret figured much higher among teenage girls with 31pc of them regretting their first time compared to only 16pc of boys.

Anne Nolan, a co-author, said: “The study findings show us the quality of the relationship between parents and their children is a key determinant of whether discussions about sex and relationships take place and how easy young people find it to speak to their parents about sex.

“Initiatives to support parents in developing positive communication skills may be expected to have broader benefits in terms of discussions about sex and relationships.”

At age 17, nearly a quarter of boys and 20pc of girls cited the internet, television, films and books as their main source of information about sex.

Young people who had better quality relationships with their parents were more likely to talk to them about sex and relationships.

At age 13, parents and family were the primary information sources. However, by age 17 friends were the most commonly cited source by nearly 50pc of respondents.

Of the 13-year-olds involved in the study, 45pc said they had discussed sex and relationships with their parents. By age 17, this number had climbed to just under 60pc.

Girls found it easier to talk to their mothers, while boys found it easier to talk to their fathers.

However, almost 60pc of boys found it difficult or very difficult to talk to their fathers about sex.

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Co-author Emer Smyth said: "A significant group of young people are not receiving information or advice on sex from their parents, making school-based relationships and sexuality education all the more important.

“The findings support the current move towards considering sexual well-being as part of broader school efforts to support young people’s well-being.”

Moira Germaine, education and training manager with the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, said: “What parents do matters; this is confirmed by the finding that parent-child communication about relationships and sexuality in the early adolescent years was associated with contraception use when the children became sexually active as young adults.

“Not only can parents have this specific protective influence, they can also help their child to develop all the attitudes, values and behaviours necessary for forming and maintaining healthy relationships including in adulthood healthy sexual relationships.”

The HSE is introducing parental resources, including free books. For more information log onto www.healthpromotion.ie and www.sexualwellbeing.ie.

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