Why Is It So Hard? Promoting Open Conversations Between Parents and Adolescents

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 2:10 PM

Josie Weiss, PhD, MSN, BSN, FNP-BC, FAANP
College of Nursing, University of Central Florida, Montverde, FL, USA

Purpose: Though rates of adolescent pregnancy are decreasing, sexually transmitted diseases, human trafficking, and dating violence during adolescence are on the rise. Helping adolescents make healthy sexual choices has never been more important, but conversations between adolescents and parents or guardians on this topic are often difficult. The purpose of this presentation is to discuss findings from two qualitative studies. The purpose of the first study was to determine the perspectives of adults who parent, teach and/or provide healthcare or community support for underserved adolescents to determine the most effective ways to help parents hold open interactive conversations with adolescents about health-promoting sexual decision-making. Information from this study was used to guide the next study with young adults. The purpose of this study was to determine the most effective ways to facilitate meaningful conversations, including conversation barriers and facilitators, between parents and adolescents about healthy adolescent sexual decision making.

Methods: In the first study with adults who parent, teach and/or provide healthcare or community support for underserved adolescents, ten women and five men were interviewed separately. The interviews were professionally transcribed, then coded, line by line using the MaxQDA software. Findings from this research were shared with participants in the second study to initiate discussions. In this study, focus groups were conducted with young adults (recent adolescents). These focus groups also were audiotaped, transcribed and coded line by line using the MaxQDA software. Data from both studies were analyzed independently by the principle investigator and two research assistants to determine relevant themes.

Results: Facilitators and strategies that promote adolescent/parent communication about healthy sexual decision-making were identified. Some of these include starting meaningful conversations about sexuality early in children’s lives, recognizing the most opportune times and places for these conversations, responding to cues, being available for conversations about all topics and showing respect for each other even when opinions vary. Barriers which inhibit meaningful conversations were identified as well. These include adolescent and parental dilemmas, such as lack of knowledge, being role-models for children, and reticence to reveal personal information.

Conclusion: Some parents do not recognize the need for open conversations about healthy sexual decision making, but many do, and yet struggle. For both parents and adolescents, having open conversations about healthy sexual decision making involves risk-taking. The costs of these conversations, including the risks of loss of acceptance, power and respect, of being rejected, or criticized are often weighed with the benefits that might be gained. When the costs are too great open conversations are inhibited. Strategies that help parents see the benefits and counteract the risks will be discussed.