Bottom Line: Parents and teens find it difficult to talk about sex and alcohol, and this study finds that doctors can help. This randomized clinical trial evaluated whether interventions targeted at parents in primary care pediatric settings might improve communications between parents and their teens about sexual health and alcohol use. The interventions were selected because in previous research outside of clinic settings they have been shown to encourage teens to wait until they're older to have sex, use protection if they do have sex, and reduce alcohol use. The study included 118 parent-adolescent pairs, with 38 pairs in a sexual health intervention, 40 pairs in an alcohol prevention intervention, and 40 pairs in a control group for comparison who received usual care. Parents in the interventions received coaching on key messages regarding sexual health and alcohol and were encouraged to engage in parent-adolescent communication about it within two weeks, at which time there was a follow-up call to parents from health coaches. Participants were surveyed four months later and study authors report an increased frequency of parent-teen communications about sexual health and alcohol use in the intervention groups compared to the control group. Results suggest that doctors have an opportunity to help parents and teens communicate about sex and alcohol in ways that will help young people make healthier choices about sexual behaviors and alcohol use. Limitations of the study include that it was conducted at a single site and parent-teen communications were self-reported.
Authors: Carol A. Ford, M.D., Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and coauthors
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