The silent treatment: parents' narratives of sexuality education with young people

Cult Health Sex. 2010 May;12(4):359-71. doi: 10.1080/13691050903514455.

Abstract

This paper is based on research undertaken in Ireland that sought to understand how parents communicate with their children about sexuality. Forty-three parents were interviewed and data were analysed using analytical induction. Data indicated that while parents tended to pride themselves on the culture of openness to sexuality that prevailed in their home, they often described situations where very little dialogue on the subject actually transpired. However, unlike previous research on the topic that identified parent-related factors (such as ignorance or embarrassment) as the main impediments to parent-young person communication about sex, participants in our study identified the central obstacle to be a reticence on the part of the young person to engage in such dialogue. Participants described various blocking techniques apparently used by the young people, including claims to have full prior knowledge on the issue, physically absenting themselves from the situation, becoming irritated or annoyed, or ridiculing parents' educational efforts. In our analysis, we consider our findings in light of the shifting power of children historically and the new cultural aspiration of maintaining harmonious and democratic relations with one's offspring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Sex Education*
  • Sexuality*
  • Young Adult