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A report indicates that both parents and teenagers want to have discussions on sexual and reproductive health during preventive visits, but those discussions may not be happening as often as they should be.
Many parents and teenagers think that it’s important to have discussions about sexual and reproductive health with their clinicians. However, these discussions aren’t always happening at preventive care visits. A report in Pediatrics assessed how often those visits were occurring and what was being missed when they didn’t occur.1
The investigators ran an internet survey of a national sample of adolescents and their parents. The teenagers had a preventive visits in the past 2 years. Both parents and adolescents were asked about a variety of sexual and reproductive health topics, including puberty, sexual orientation, methods of birth control, and where to obtain sexual reproductive health services and rate how important it was to discuss. Both groups were also asked about whether their clinician had discussed confidentiality. The teenagers were asked about what was discussed during their most recent preventive care visits as well as whether they had time alone with the clinician.
In the sample, slightly more than half of the teenagers were non-Hispanic White. Nearly all of them identified as heterosexual. A majority of the parents were either the stepmother or mother and nearly all of them were married or living with a partner. When asked about which topics were important to discuss, teenagers said that they believed puberty, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, birth control methods, and where to access sexual and reproductive health services, with older adolescents, those aged 15 to 17 years, saying they were important more often than the younger ones, those 11 to 14 years.
The parents were more likely than their children to say that it was important to discuss these topics at preventive visits. Confidentiality appeared to not be commonly discussed, with only 42.3% of older adolescents reporting that their provider had ever discussed confidentiality with them. When discussing their most recent visit, 14.0% of younger teenagers and 38.7% of older teenagers said that they had been asked about their sexual activity. Among younger adolescents, younger girls were twice as likely to be asked about their sexual activity than their male peers.
Puberty was the mostly likely sexual and reproductive health topic discussed at the visit with less than a third of teenagers reporting a discussion of any other topic. Not including puberty, the other topics were more likely to occur with older adolescents than the younger group.
The investigators determined that both teenagers and parents think that having discussions about sexual and reproductive health topics like puberty and birth control are very important, but many of those topics did not occur during many of the recent preventive visits. The lack of discussion was particularly common during visits with younger adolescents.
1. Sieving R, McRee A, Mehus C, et al. Sexual and Reproductive health discussions during preventive visits. Pediatrics. July 12, 2021. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1542/peds.2020-049411