Open communication between parents and teens about sexual behavior can be uncomfortable for both sides. But do these talks make a difference in adolescents’ awareness and use of safer sexual practices?

THIS STUDY analyzed data from 52 studies, spanning three decades and including 25,314 adolescents, who averaged 15 years old. Those who talked to their parents about sex were more likely to report avoiding risky sex and using contraceptives and condoms than were teens who did not. This was especially true for girls and for teens who talked about sex with their mother rather than their father. The findings did not differ by the youths’ age or ethnicity.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Teens. Young people make up about a fourth of the U.S population that is sexually active but account for almost half of all sexually transmitted infections. They are also at heightened risk for unintended pregnancy. Among high school students, nearly half report having had sex.

CAVEATS The study did not have data on such details as when parent-teen talks took place, specifically what was said or how it was communicated, so it did not assess whether these factors made a difference. Data came exclusively from teens and did not include information from parents.

FIND THIS STUDY Nov. 2 online issue of JAMA Pediatrics (www.jamapediatrics.com; click on “Online First”).

LEARN MORE ABOUT talking with teens about sex at www.mayoclinic.org (search for “teen sex”) and www.healthychildren.org (click “Teen,” then “Dating & Sex”).

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals.