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Father Strongly Disapproves of Adolescent Sexual Intercourse by Family Structure and Religious Practice

Wave 1 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) [1] found that adolescents aged 13 to 19 in intact families that worshipped weekly or more were most likely to feel that their father would strongly disapprove[2] of their engaging in sexual intercourse at this time in their life.

Family Structure: Adolescents in intact married families were most likely to feel that their father would strongly disapprove of their engaging in sexual intercourse (64.1 percent). They were followed by teens raised in a married stepfamily (51.8 percent), an always-single-parent family (48.1 percent), an intact cohabiting family (45.4 percent, a single-divorce-parent family (43.8 percent), and a cohabiting stepfamily (26.3 percent). Notably, adolescents raised in an intact married family were more than twice as likely as adolescents raised in a cohabiting stepfamily to think their father would disapprove of sexual intercourse (64.1 percent versus 26.3 percent, respectively).

 

Religious Practice: Teens who attended religious services were more likely to feel that their father would strongly disapprove of their engaging in sexual intercourse. Thirteen- to nineteen-year-olds who worshipped weekly or more often within the past year were more likely to believe that their father would disapprove of their having sexual intercourse (70.2 percent) than those who attended monthly but not weekly (60.9 percent), less than monthly (55.8 percent), or never (52.7 percent).

Family Structure and Religious Practice Combined: Thirteen- to nineteen-year-olds in intact worshipping families were most likely to feel that their father would strongly disapprove of their engaging in sexual intercourse (71.6 percent). Teens in non-intact worshipping families (55.1%) and intact non-worshipping families (54.5 percent) were less likely to believe their father would strongly disapprove of sexual intercourse. Teens in non-intact families that did not worship were least likely to think their father would disapprove (45.6 percent).

Related Insights from Other Studies: Parents play a significant role in shaping adolescent sexual behavior. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos et al. found that paternal disapproval of teen sexual activity was associated with later sexual debut,[3] while Carl A. Ford et al. showed that an adolescent’s perceived parental disapproval of sexual intercourse has a protective influence on the teen’s risk for acquiring STIs.[4] Married parents are most likely to exhibit traits, such as these, that foster an environment that prevents early sexual activity and/ or risky sexual conduct.[5] Improving adolescent sexual behavior begins in the home with the parents.

 

[1] The charts draw on data collected by the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health. The National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) is a congressionally-mandated longitudinal survey of American adolescents. Add Health drew a random sample of adolescents aged 13-19 in 1995 from junior high and high schools (Wave I) and has followed them in successive waves in 2001 (Wave III) and 2009 (Wave IV).

[2] Respondents were asked to react to the statement “How would [your father] feel about your having sex at this time in your life?” Their options included: “strongly disapprove,” “disapprove,” “neither disapprove nor approve,” “approve,” “strongly approve,” “refused,” “don’t know,” or “not applicable.”

[3] Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, Alida Bouris, Jane Lee, Katharine McCarthy, Shannon L. Micahel, Seraphine Pitt-Barnes, and Patricia Dittus, “Paternal Influences on Adolescent Sexual Risk Behaviors: A Structured Literature Review,” Pediatrics 130 (2012): e1314-e1325.

[4] Carol A. Ford, Brian Wells Pence, William C. Miller, Michael D. Resnick, Linda H. Bearinger, Sandy Pettingell, and Myron Cohen, “Predicting adolescents’ longitudinal risk for sexually transmitted infection: results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health,” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 159 (2005): 657-64.

[5] Patrick F. Fagan and Aaron Churchill, “The Effects of Divorce on Children” (January 2012), available at http://marri.us/effects-divorce-children