National guidelines for medical professionals already stipulate that doctors must discuss these type of health resources with sexually active teens. But the study’s authors point out their research proves this goal is not being met. “Just like many parents, physicians are not always comfortable discussing sexual health topics,” one of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Laura Duberstein Lindberg of the Guttmacher Institute, explained.
Previous research has found that parents also don’t talk to their teens enough about sexual health topics — and even the parents who may discuss “the birds and the bees” with their kids often fail to provide them with specific information about how to use contraception. Only about 30 percent of parents say they have discussed birth control methods “many times” with their teens.
Some youth may receive this information in their health classes. But, since sex ed standards continue to widely vary across different states, many Americans teens don’t. And the researchers explain that even the kids who learn about prevention methods in school would benefit from having that information reinforced in conversations with their parents and doctors. “The optimal goal is for teens to receive sexual health information from parents, schools, and health care providers because past studies show that information from multiple reliable sources is associated with improved health outcomes for teens,” Lindberg said.
Overall, the study found that girls are more likely to receive information about birth control than boys. That may reflect a pervasive gender imbalance in society’s approach to teen sexuality. Since women bear a disproportionate burden for risky sexual behavior — in addition to potentially becoming pregnant, the negative effects of sexually transmitted infections weigh more heavily on women — they are often assigned more of the blame for those sexual choices. Society’s conception of abstinence has also placed particular emphasis on women remaining pure, and continually slut-shames women for expressing their sexuality.