Teens from religious families wait longer before having sex, due to cohesive family environments and positive peer networks, according to Child Trend’s analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. However, sexually active male teens from religious families are less likely to use contraceptives consistently, highlighting the need for dual messages to adolescents that convey both the importance of abstaining from sex and the need for contraception if they do become sexually active.
For teen girls, family religiosity is indirectly linked to having fewer sexual partners and greater contraceptive consistency. They are also more likely to abstain from sex until a later age, and tend to have more positive peer environments and higher levels of parental monitoring.
Regardless of family religiosity, parents who monitor their children’s activities and peer environments, engage their families in routine activities and foster strong parent-teen relationships can help reduce risky sexual behavior. The study was published in the June issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. (202) 572-6000. Abstract free online at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1363/4010508.