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Who Better to Teach Teenager Boys about Condom Use Than Their Fathers :

December 17, 2018

Have you ever asked your teen male patients where they learned about condoms and how to use them? If you have, did fathers ever get mentioned as condom instructors

Have you ever asked your teen male patients where they learned about condoms and how to use them? If you have, did fathers ever get mentioned as condom instructors?  Likely not, but before you give up on this idea, Guilamo-Ramos et al. (10.1542/peds.2018-1609) offer an interesting look at 25 father-son dyads living in the Bronx and asked in semi-structured interviews about whether and how they might teach their sons about condom use.  The good news is that both father and sons concurred that talking with each other about condom use is acceptable and potentially feasible—but they also noted the awkwardness of trying to have that conversation or conversations. The study pointed out that sons want specific instruction on condom use, and fathers admitted that having these conversations might help improve their own knowledge and skills of using these items and recognized that not knowing a lot about this topic can be a limitation to effective instruction. Fathers also admitted that even having a discussion regarding making sure their sons protect themselves from the negative outcomes of some sexual activities (such as unprotected sex) can be vaguer than it should be.

So can pediatricians play a role in encouraging this conversation to occur?  We asked Drs. Kate Lucey and Craig Garfield from Northwestern University and Lurie Children’s Hospital, with expertise on father-son communication to share their thoughts on the findings in this study (10.1542/peds.2018-2595).  They reiterate the importance of considering fathers as key resources for sons in helping educate them about sexual and reproductive health and note the great suggestions offered in the Discussion section of the study by Guilamo-Ramos et al.  Most importantly they herald the fact that in this study, boys wanted to hear from their fathers about the use of condoms. They also point out that the important role we must play in educating fathers, but also our need to be ready to educate sons about condoms if these males live in homes without a cohabiting or involved father.  If a father does not accompany their son to a visit, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be approached by us to better learn how to have conversations about sexual health with their sons whether that information is shared in person, with a handout, or even via a well done online social media video.  If this is not feasible, Drs. Lucey and Garfield recommend our doing more with schools, community groups, and sports teams to encourage better father-son communication about condoms and sexual health.  Check out this study and commentary which will take you a lot father—oops make that farther—in insuring that our male adolescent patients and their fathers are getting the sexual health education about condoms and other topics that they both will find helpful.

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