A review of interventions with parents to promote the sexual health of their children

J Adolesc Health. 2013 Jan;52(1):4-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.04.014. Epub 2012 Jun 7.


Purpose: To assess the effectiveness of interventions involving parents or carers intended to improve the sexual health of their children.

Methods: Eleven databases were searched for evaluations of interventions with some parental involvement and with outcomes related to the sexual health of the parents' children. Studies had to be experimental, quasi-experimental, or of the before-and-after type. Results were analyzed in a narrative systematic review, taking account of methodological quality.

Results: We identified adequately robust evaluations of 44 programs, delivered in diverse settings. In nearly all cases, the parenting component focused on improving parent-child communication about sex. In general, where measured, parent-child interaction and adolescents' knowledge and attitudes improved, but sexual behavior outcomes only improved in approximately half the studies. Three programs in which the parenting component made up at least one-fourth of the overall program were found, through randomized controlled trials, to modify some aspect of adolescents' sexual behavior. All programs involved parents for at least 14 hours, were community-based, and encouraged delayed sex.

Conclusions: Targeted programs with intensive parental involvement can modify adolescents' sexual behavior, although the review was limited by the lack of rigorous evaluations. Few programs addressed behavioral control, parent-child connectedness, or parental modeling, all suggested by observational research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adolescent Health Services*
  • Humans
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting
  • Parents
  • Reproductive Health*
  • Sexual Behavior*