UC San Francisco researchers recently published a report in the Journal of Adolescent Health revealing parents of teenage girls are more apt to support birth control pills than condoms. A small minority of parents were willing to accept alternative birth control methods, including implants and IUDs. Birth control, implants, and IUDs are effective means of birth control, but none protect teenage girls from sexually transmitted diseases.

Clinical data from the San Francisco General Hospital and northern California Kaiser clinics were used to pick 261 random sets of parents with children between 12 and 17 years of age. The parents filled out a survey about perception of their child’s sexual behavior, personal sexual health as a teen and personal knowledge of STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Seven methods of contraception were included in the survey. Parents were asked to answer questions about whether or not they would find it acceptable for their child’s physician to offer certain methods of birth control to the teen without the knowledge of the parent.

Parents were most likely to support birth control pills than any other method of birth control (59%), but condoms (51%) and injected birth control (46%) followed at a close second and third, respectively. Religious belief and prior knowledge or expectation that teens were already having sex, changed the survey outcome. Condoms and emergency contraception were preferred by parents who suspected their teenage daughter was having sex. Religious families were less likely to prefer emergency contraception.

Condoms are the only means of birth control that protect against STIs, so researchers thought parents would be more accepting of this birth control method. IUDs, a nearly flawless form of birth control, remains plagued by old myths from the 1970s when the first IUDs caused infertility and infection; thus, fewer parents supported IUDs compared to what they considered “safer” alternatives.

Researchers noted the most important factor altering how parents answered questions in the survey was the knowledge or expectation that their teenage daughters were already sexually active. Realizing or admitting to a teen’s autonomy and opening the lines of communication to give teens the ability to talk about sex and their sexual choices may change parental minds.

Source: Lauren B. Hartman, Mary-Ann Shafer, Lance M. Pollack, Charles Wibbelsman, Fay Chang, Kathleen P. Tebb. Parental Acceptability of Contraceptive Methods Offered to Their Teen During a Confidential Health Care Visit. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2013; 52 (2): 251 DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.06.013