As a parent, you probably worry the most about your kids getting STDs in their teenage years and early adulthood. So much weight is put on having the safe sex talk and monitoring your teens’ activities to ensure that they’re not engaging in risky behaviors.
Yet recent research has shown that a focus on the early years of childhood can have a key impact on an individual’s risk of getting STDs. Various environmental factors can have an effect on a teenager’s early entrance into sexual activity, leading to an increased risk of STDs.
What did the study reveal about the connection between STDs and young adulthood? Parents, read on to learn about helping your children lower their risk of contracting STDs.
Parents: Help Your Children Avoid STDs
Researchers at the University of Washington used data from two 10-year Seattle-area studies involving 2,000 participants. They found that by age 24, participants coming from both studies had an average of eight sexual partners, while 20% had been diagnosed with an STD. 33% of study participants who were sexually active before 15 had contracted an STD, while only 16% of participants who were older when they became sexually active had an STD.
Their study, published online and soon to will appear in print in the Journal of Adolescent Health, supports the idea that the spread of STDs can be better prevented by earlier efforts rather than right before people become sexually active. Researchers reached this conclusion by studying the common factors of the young adults who became sexually active before the age of 15, since those who started having sex earlier had a higher rate of STDs than their counterparts.
Factors That Increase Your Child’s Risk of Getting STDs
They found that participants who were more closely monitored and had more clearly-defined parent-designated rules were less likely to begin having sex early. Another factor that correlated with an early initiation into sexual activity was disengagement with school. Participants so started having sex before the age of 15 reported disliking school, teachers, and homework more than their non-sexually active counterparts. And participants whose childhood friends had run-ins at school or with law enforcement were also at higher risk of early sexual initiation and thus STDs.
Early Intervention vs. Safe Sex/Prevention Education
Essentially, study author Marina Epstein says, an increased focus on children’s early years could better stop the spread of STDs than prevention education geared toward teenagers. Although teens and young adults should be educated on safe sex practices, at times this education comes too late — after the teen has already had sex or contracted an STD, for example — which is reflected in the fact that young adults ages 15 – 24 make up half of new STD cases in the United States. Researchers warn that prevention programs can also yield only short-term results because they don’t get to the root of what causes risky behaviors like becoming sexually active early, not using condoms, and not getting tested for STDs before initiating new sexual relationships.
So How Can Parents Stop the Spread of STDs?
There are several takeaways from this study that parents should be aware of:
- Establishing firm ground rules, including disciplinary consequences and rewards, is key in preventing early sexual activity and thus reducing your child’s risk of later contracting STDs.
- You should monitor your child’s engagement at school. Work with them and their teachers to ensure that they are involved inside and outside of class, which includes keeping up with school work, engaging in extracurricular activities, and maintaining a healthy social life.
- Your child’s friends have an impact on their behaviors. Watch out for friends who are engaging in risky behaviors such as drug or alcohol use or even simply cutting school. Talk to your children about peer pressure, and if necessary implement stronger rules about their social interactions, such as a stricter curfew or a supervision requirement.
With an earlier focus on the environmental factors that lead to an increased risk of STDs, parents can best promote their childrens’ sexual health.
Stop the Spread of STDs With ARCpoint Labs
If you suspect that your child is sexually active, then you should get them tested for STDs before they continue the spread of their infection. ARCpoint Labs provides fast, reliable, and confidential testing for the most common STDs.
To get started on helping your children with STDs, find the ARCpoint location near you.