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Summary: Mothers' Disapproval of Sex Reduces Teen Sexual Behavior

Teens' perception of their mother's disapproval of sexual behavior lessens the odds of adolescent sexual activity and unintended pregnancy. A positive relationship between mother and teen reduces risks as well.

  • This study confirms the importance of mother/child relationships and the perceived maternal disapproval of sexual behavior. Teens who think their mothers disapprove of their engaging in sexual intercourse and are satisfied with their relationship with their mothers are less likely to engage in sex and to experience an unintended pregnancy. The perception of maternal opposition toward engaging in sex at the beginning of the study was associated with a lower probability of engaging in sex and a lowered probability of pregnancy during subsequent 12 months. For sexual intercourse, the predicted odds of engaging in sex were 6.3 times higher when perceived disapproval was low as opposed to high. For pregnancy, the predicted odds of a pregnancy were 3.5 times higher when perceived disapproval was low as opposed to high. In terms of relationship satisfaction, the study found that the predicted offs of engaging in sex were 2.7 times higher (3.9 times higher for pregnancy) when the adolescent satisfaction with their relationship with their mother was low as opposed to high. The predicted odds of engaging in sex when both the perceived disapproval and relationship satisfaction were at their lowest values were 17.1 times greater (and 13.1 times greater for pregnancy) than when both variables were at their lowest. Notably, the more that teens thought their mothers approved of the use of birth control, the more likely they were to underestimate their mother's opposition to them engaging in sex.1

1Adolescents' Perceptions of Maternal Disapproval of Sex: Relationship to Sexual Outcomes, Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 26, 2000, pp. 268-278.

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