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Educating Parents on Talking to Children About Sex Promotes Communication About Sexual Health Among Them

Based in Puerto Rico, the Cuídalos project proved the usefulness of a web-based educational module, which aimed to promote communication between parents and their adolescent children on topics related to their sexuality so that they can make good decisions.

During the past four years, 660 families who were recruited in public schools and community organizations around the island were impacted through Cuídalos.

Participating parents observed the interactive module with information on sexual health and methods to prevent and protect against sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, among other related aspects. In addition, the parents were taught techniques to facilitate dialogue with their sons and daughters on these issues. Then, for a year, the research team tracked the participants to test the effectiveness of the module.

“Nursing showed a significant improvement in communication between parents and children about sexual risk, sexual prevention, sexual protection and sexual pressure,” explained lead investigator of Cuídalos, Antonia Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor and the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

“The Cuídalos findings have implications for sexual education at all levels. First, they demonstrate that fathers and mothers should be integrated into efforts to educate adolescents about sexuality. They also invite us to reinforce the knowledge of parents on these issues so that they can help their children make better decisions about their sexual health. At the macro level, they tell us that we need to promote and develop public sexual health policies that include the whole family,” said Nelson Varas Díaz, PhD, a researcher at Florida International University.

The Cuídalos project was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The implementation in Puerto Rico was under the management of Varas Díaz and his research team, composed of graduate students of Psychology and Social Work of the University of Puerto Rico.