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Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2004 Mar-Apr;36(2):50-7.

Parents' beliefs about condoms and oral contraceptives: are they medically accurate?

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National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Research Center, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.



Parents are encouraged to be the primary sex educators for their children; however, little is known about the accuracy of parents' views about condoms and oral contraceptives.


Telephone surveys using validated measures provided data on beliefs about the effectiveness, safety and usability of condoms and the pill among 1,069 parents of 13-17-year-olds in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2002. Pearson chi-square tests and multivariate logistic regression models were used to compare beliefs according to sex, age, race, religion, education, income and political orientation.


Substantial proportions of parents underestimated the effectiveness of condoms for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Only 47% believed that condoms are very effective for STD prevention, and 40% for pregnancy prevention. Fifty-two percent thought that pill use prevents pregnancy almost all the time; 39% thought that the pill is very safe. Approximately one-quarter of parents thought that most teenagers are capable of using condoms correctly; almost four in 10 thought that most teenagers can use the pill correctly. Fathers tended to have more accurate views about condoms than mothers did; mothers' views of the pill were generally more accurate than fathers'. Whites were more likely than nonwhites to hold accurate beliefs about the pill's safety and effectiveness; conservatives were less likely than liberals to hold accurate views about the effectiveness of condoms.


Campaigns encouraging parents to talk with their teenagers about sexuality should provide parents with medically accurate information on the effectiveness, safety and usability of condoms and the pill.

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