A recent study has revealed that discussions on sex between parents and teenage boys focus more on the negative aspects of sex.
The study, conducted by Marina Epstein and L. Monique Ward from The University of Michigan, established that parental communication centres on the pessimistic facets of sex compared to the rather more positive sexual messages teenage boys receive from the media and their peers.
The authors' objective was to find out whether there is a difference in the information gleaned from parents, peers, and the media, and if the information provided by each group differed in the types of sexual values expressed.
A total of 286 male undergraduates aged 18-24 were asked to recollect who had had the maximum influence on their sexual education and, more particularly, who had discussed or been responsible for which aspects.
In line with previous studies, the researchers found that most parents had imparted some education, but that the type of information provided contrasted sharply to that given by peers and the media.
Parents were the strongest backers of abstinence and gave out most information about pregnancy and fertilization. However, for all other topics, parents were seen as having contributed the least.
Communication from peers, on the other hand, encouraged nonrelational sex and provided models of dating and sexual behavior and information on being 'cool'.
The media appeared to be likewise influential and was strongest in promoting gendered sexual stereotypes and in giving messages promoting sexual freedom.
However, the authors indicate that there was a great variation between the subjects in what had been covered by which source. For example, the media was also seen as providing the most information on AIDS, STDs, and condoms. Issues of love and homosexuality did not appear to be addressed by any of the sources.
The authors conclude that this study brings out quite a lot of important questions, namely: How do young men discuss these contradictory opinions? What messages win? What might make men listen to their parents' advice and not the sexual advice of their peers and the media?
The authors added that the most important question for future research is which types of messages from which sources are the most influential? Once these questions are answered, we may have some idea of the intricate processes of adolescent development and decision making.
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