Though parents may often be interested in counseling their children about various ideas and behaviors, they may not always now just what to say –or how they feel about the issue, themselves. Sex is typically a difficult subject to broach between parents and teenagers, and some family relationships may suffer as a result. Focusing on concerns over sexual activity in teens and subsequent reactions and ideas in parents, a researcher at North Carolina State University has developed work showing that parents tend to hold their child blameless for any undesirable sexual activity, while contributing to potentially negative stereotypes about youth and relationships.
The researcher’s study examined beliefs about teen sexual activity and behaviors as described by parents, and sough to find out how stereotypes about teenagers and the sexes play into parental beliefs. The study found that parents tended to believe that their own children were uninterested in sex, though they also believed that other teens were highly sexual and posed a potential threat to their own offspring. In particular, parents of teenage boys reported concerns about teenage girls who they believed could coerce their sons into sexual relationships in an effort to keep the boys interested and committed. Parents of teenage girls, on the other hand, were concerned that their daughters would be predated by “sexually driven” teenage boys.
Nothing that such gender-based stereotypes can be harmful, the researcher points out that parents tend to suggest a negative quality about youthful relationships, which may lead to the perpetuation of risky behaviors and the acting-out of reinforced stereotypes. The researcher is anticipating the publication of a book discussing these concepts which may help parents, teenagers, and family counselors achieve a common ground for thinking and communicating about sexual relationships, activities, and expectations.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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