The relative effectiveness of interventions to improve parental communication with adolescents about sex is not known.


To compare the effectiveness and methodologic quality of interventions for improving parental communication with adolescents about sex.


We searched 6 databases: OVID/Medline, PsychInfo, ERIC, Cochrane Review, Communication and Mass Media, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature. We included studies published between 1980 and July 2010 in peer-reviewed English-language journals that targeted US parents of adolescents aged 11 to 18 years, used an experimental or quasi-experimental design, included a control group, and had a pretest/posttest design. We abstracted data on multiple communication outcomes defined by the integrative conceptual model (communication frequency, content, skills, intentions, self-efficacy, perceived environmental barriers/facilitators, perceived social norms, attitudes, outcome expectations, knowledge, and beliefs). Methodologic quality was assessed using the 11-item methodologic quality score.


Twelve studies met inclusion criteria. Compared with controls, parents who participated in these interventions experienced improvements in multiple communication domains including the frequency, quality, intentions, comfort, and self-efficacy for communicating. We noted no effects on parental attitudes toward communicating or the outcomes they expected to occur as a result of communicating. Four studies were of high quality, 7 were of medium quality, and 1 was of lower quality.


Our review was limited by the lack of standardized measures for assessing parental communication. Still, interventions for improving parent-adolescent sex communication are well designed and have some targeted effects. Wider dissemination could augment efforts by schools, clinicians, and health educators.

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