A recent University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing study showed the importance of receiving sexual-health education at a young age.
The study specifically examined communication between parents and their gay, bisexual or queer adolescent male children.
According to Dr. Dalmacio Flores, a postdoctoral student in Penn’s Nursing Department of Family and Community Health, it’s important for parents to communicate sex-related topics to adolescent males for healthy sexual development.
“The growing information on how sex communication occurs between parents and LGBTQ children can ultimately help families and health-care providers address this population’s health outcomes through inclusive sex communication,” Flores said in a statement.
Flores created the study after working on the HIV/AIDS floor at a hospital a few years ago.
“We kept seeing admissions among younger gay men and, to me, it just reinforced that they are not getting the appropriate prevention messages. They were getting infected at such young ages,” Flores told PGN.
He began interviewing clients and found that even if the young men were getting sex education in a school setting, they weren’t learning about same-sex behavior.
Flores said it’s more than just teaching about “the birds and the bees.”
“Sexual communication has always been exclusively focused on heterosexual behavior.”
Additionally, he said there was a lack of literature and education for parents when it comes to sexual communication.
“Supporting parents’ capacity to address the needs of their LGBTQ children through inclusive sex communication has the potential to minimize risk behaviors before these youths leave the confines of the home,” said Flores.
A research team found that sex communication with parents throughout adolescence often excludes gay, bisexual and queer youth. Understanding and communicating can lessen sexual risks, Flores said. According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, male-to-male HIV sexual transmission accounts for 92 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents 13-24.
By understanding the roles parents and health-care providers play, there is a chance for positive, family-based sexual-health discussions in a time of identity and behavior development, Flores said.
“Parents could have conversations more suited to attractions and behaviors of budding identities.”
The doctor added that through research, he found that many of the young males were getting improper messages, often from a parent assuming the sexuality of a child, and focusing solely on heterosexual activity.
“With health-care providers’ help, parents can be better sex educators and conduits of pertinent sexual-health information for their GBQ adolescents.”
A National Institutes of Health training grant and postdoctoral funding financed the study. Additional funding was received from the Surgeon General C. Everett Koop HIV/AIDS award.
Flores said the next focus of the study will look specifically at the parents’ perspectives. A new study started last month, including continuous meetings with parents.
“We need to identify parents who have had those conversations, whether it was inclusive or not inclusive to the barriers. We’re looking for parents — we need diversity,” said Flores.
For now, it is important for parents to start normalizing these conversations at home, whether or not their sons have come out. It is also imperative not to assume a child is straight. Parents can also share information with other parents to get the conversation started, according to Flores.
The study, which is currently available online, will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Adolescent Research.
For the full study, visit http://bit.ly/2sZcGPr. For more information on Penn Nursing, visit http://www.nursing.upenn.edu/.