The Role of Supervision in the Home And Teen Sex

A primary way to decrease risky sexual behavior in teens is to limit their opportunity to be in risk prone situations, specifically keeping them supervised at home. “Sexually active youths have sex at home when they are unsupervised.”

Supervision in the Home & Its Impact

There is a very strong link between having a parent (or any other adult) home after school and reduced teen sexual behavior, sexual partner numbers and STI prevalence.

Teen Sex

Young adults in families with more adult supervision significantly delay their sexual debut (loss of virginity). In one study of urban teens, 42% of the boys had had sex before 14 and 9% of girls became active at this very young age, mostly in homes with no adult present after school.

Over 90% of the active teens in this study report having recently had sex in a home: 37% in their own and 43% in their partners. The more hours boys were unsupervised the more lifetime partners they ended up having in high school. This effect was three times stronger for boys than girls, with 80% of boys who were unsupervised for over 30 hrs a week being sexually active.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse (in particular alcohol) was also highest for these unsupervised boys. Greater adult monitoring also decreased the riskiness of sexual activities kids participated in, with more parent face time being associated with less risky sexual behavior including having fewer lifetime partners, consistently using condoms, and lessening exposure to forced sexual intercourse and STI infection rates.

Interestingly, parents' attitudes towards teen sex (disapproving versus permissive about it) did not impact whether or not kids had sex, as compared to if adults were physically present in the home.

In repeated studies the following don’t impact sexual activity in teens:

  • Family structure (2 parent versus 1 parent)
  • Their school (public versus parochial/religious)
  • Virginity pledges
  • Assurances that they are not having sex

Do not assume that your kids are not having sex, or that they are telling you the truth about their activities on this one. Instead provide them with safe access to birth control, the language to say no when they want, an understanding of how your beliefs impact who you chose as a partner, and the knowledge that you are there if things go wrong in this part of their lives.

What to Tell Kids

Todd Bender at Ferris High School put it well: “I don’t tell kids they should or should not have sex. What I do tell them is that there are people they trust to share their inner heart with. And they shouldn’t share “down there” with anyone they wouldn’t share these heart hopes and dreams with.”

Pretty much sums it up. Tell your kids to chose carefully those select few people who will be on their “lifetime sexual partners” list. That really popular guy, you think is kind of a jerk, that girl who is tipsy and you usually think of as not your type…don’t do it. You only have a finite number of “lifetime partners”…don’t make them one.  Find some lube and a quiet place to take care of things on your own.

- Dr. E

Science can help us nurture and enjoy our sexual selves.


In order to comment on, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.