Much has been said about the Parental Rights Amendment: it protects the rights of good parents to raise their children, it preserves our national sovereignty in the realm of family law, it defends one of the most fundamental and core values of the American heritage. What is often not covered, however, is how parental involvement improves public health. Parental guidance and involvement have effectively reduced underage drinking, teens driving under the influence, underage smoking, and substance abuse more than any other factor. Moreover, it has also been discovered that positive parental guidance in the realm of sexuality has a proven track record of improving public health and reducing the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
(For information about the study, click here (it can also be found here, and through ProQuest, subscription required). My sincerest thanks to those who conducted the study; all information in this article was taken from the studies and research covered in the article above, unless cited otherwise.)
I recognize that this may be considered an almost inappropriate topic of discussion: we tend to skirt this issue, leaving it unaddressed unless we confront it directly with legislation. Yet the discussion must be had in order to truly understand and appreciate the importance of parental guidance to our society. Adolescents and youths alike are much less likely to engage in sexual activity if their parents are actively involved in limiting what they view, who they see, and where they go. By defending parental involvement, we improve public health.
Melina Bersamin and her associates at the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley, CA, in their article, “Parenting Practices and Adolescent Sexual Behavior: A Longitudinal Study,” have compiled the most extensive study ever conducted on the influence of parental involvement and instruction on adolescent behavior, integrating research from 61 studies and scholarly works spanning twenty years of analysis. The findings of their study are truly amazing in their universal and resounding support for parental rights as a means of increasing public health and reducing the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Citing several studies, Bersamin notes that “perceived parental attitudes toward premarital sex and actual parental attitudes toward sexuality are strong predictors of adolescent sexual behavior.” In other studies this was confirmed in longitudinal analysis: parental disapproval, and particularly maternal disapproval of premarital sexual activity, significantly reduced the chance of premarital sex in adolescents from year to year. Other studies also found that “effective communication styles and positive parental relationships also are associated with fewer pregnancies.” By encouraging parental involvement and protecting parental rights, we can reduce other problems which confront our government today, in addition to increasing public health and making life for these young people easier and better.
Parent-imposed limitations on television viewing and time unaccounted for with friends dramatically reduced the risk of receiving STDs, such as human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, and HIV/AIDS. According to a 2002 study conducted by Cohen, Farley, Taylor, Martin, and Shuster, “high school students who were unsupervised less than 5 hours a week (high supervision) were less likely to have had sexual intercourse and had fewer lifetime sexual partners than students who were unsupervised more than 5 hours a week.” If adolescents do not have parental involvement and guidance, they suffer. We need to protect parental rights.
National statistics support these findings. According to the studies, “80% of youth reported that they were influenced some or a lot by "what parents have told them" and 79% reported being influenced some or a lot by "what parents might think" (Kaiser Family Foundation and Seventeen Magazine, 2000). More than 90% of these teens agreed that among the benefits of waiting to have sex is enjoying the respect of parents.” Children are greatly impacted by what their parents think, and the knowledge which parents have of the dangers of open sexual activity does pervade the conversation. By encouraging parental involvement, we can dramatically increase public health and provide a better future for our children.
By “parental supervision” in this study the researchers mean “interactions with children about television. The interaction can take place before, during, or after viewing.” The results were clear: “Parental television mediation strategies were also predictive of changes in adolescents' sexual behavior. Specifically, parental limitation of television viewing was negatively associated with both sexual behaviors. Parental coviewing was inversely related to vaginal intercourse initiation only.” In other words, limiting what your children watch helps reduce the chance of premarital sexual activity, and thus reduce the chance of receiving an STD.
Because we universally see teen rebellion around us, we tend to assume that the influence of parents over their children wanes with time. According to the study, however, this is far from the truth. On the contrary, the opinion of parents on subjects including drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex plays a significant role in the decision-making paradigm of the child, even into and through his or her teen years. Bersamin goes as far as to say that parents have “considerable influence” over their children’s sexual behavior during their teen years.
What does this tell us? When parents are involved and actively make their stance on premarital sex known, youth are less likely to be sexually active and are less likely to contract STDs. The studies particularly drew attention to television co-viewing and discussion before, during, and after the viewing. These two factors, taken together, are the sole element that cannot be reproduced or replicated in any other setting than the family unit. Parental involvement in the upbringing of children is absolutely essential because it is considerably effective.
It is interesting to note the dramatic difference between these studies and what we see in the Netherlands. Dutch children actively engage in sexuality, substance abuse, and alcohol. The World Population Foundation found in a 2006 study that almost 30% of boys and girls fifteen years of age are sexually active, and of those 30%, 92% of boys and 97% of girls have used some form of contraception. The numbers were higher for those above fifteen years of age.
But the story does not end with sexual activity. In an interview conducted by Kathryn Westcott of the BBC News Network, Laura Vos, a Dutch girl of sixteen when the interview was conducted in 2007, reveals just how free that nation is: “In this country, it's very free, you can do anything you want. . . . You can smoke at 16, you can buy pot in the store next to the school. You can do what you like and because it's not illegal, it's not that interesting for us to provoke our parents with it.”
If children do not think that it is important to tell their parents, is the feeling mutual? Do parents not care about whether or not their children are sexually active, drinking, smoking, or doping? Ysbrand, a young man of eighteen when the interview took place, sheds light on the situation through his story. According to Ysbrand, he was a drinker and smoker “for some time,” and presumably his parents knew of his habits. But, as he describes it, “They've never liked it, but they realize that they were young once. They are just waiting for me to give it up in my own time.” His parents do not take an active roll in helping him, even though his drinking and smoking habits are crippling his chances at a long, healthy life.
Is this a systemic problem, or is Ysbrand’s family an isolated case? According to Paul Vangeert, the Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Groningen, this mindset is commonplace. He states that “because parents are more relaxed, the dynamics of the problems are less severe than in countries where they are seen as more of a serious issue.”
Illicit drugs are being used by young people just beyond school grounds. Drinking and smoking are common, and no one is warning them of the threat to their future and present health from these habits. Why? Because “it’s not that interesting for us to provoke our parents with it.” This is the root cause: parents are not involved. This is the great difference between America today and the Netherlands: American parents want to protect their children from destructive habits. American parents are concerned about whether their children smoke, drink, use drugs, or are sexually active.
Or are we?
Are we willing to stand up and fight to protect parental rights? If we want to protect our children, we need to empower parents. Visit www.parentalrights.org for more information on how you can get involved in protecting the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.