Breaking the Silence: Better Parent/Child Conversations About Sex and Sexuality

For most of us, parent-child conversations about sexuality are pretty uncomfortable, whether you’re the parent or the child. But School of Family Life professor Laura Padilla-Walker says there are ways families can avoid that tension. In this year’s recent Cutler Lecture, hosted annually by our college, Dr. Padilla-Walker discussed her research on the ways parents teach teens about sexuality, and what it revealed about more effective ways of having those conversations.

How Not to Have Those Conversations

Outside research suggests that highly religious parents often wait the longest and feel the least comfortable when they speak with their children about sexuality (which is especially true for Catholic, Jewish, and LDS families). In Dr. Padilla-Walker’s research, her students, who were predominantly LDS, reported that their parents didn’t discuss sex often and didn’t always handle the conversation well. LDS parents tended to focus on abstinence and the sacredness of sex, but 46% of her survey participants reported that their parents seemed embarrassed during conversations about sexuality. Roughly 24% mentioned that their parents used fear tactics as part of those discussions.

LDS sexuality conversations
These percentages come from a survey distributed by Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker, a professor in BYU’s School of Family Life.

What’s more, many people in Dr. Padilla-Walker’s sample (48% of female respondents, 33% of male respondents) reported that they had experienced anxiety concerning their sexuality. That anxiety wasn’t correlated with what their parents said but with how they led conversations about sex. When parents seemed embarrassed or when kids had to initiate conversations about sex, those children had less healthy views of sexuality. When parents said sex was good or normal (without employing any fear tactics), their kids had healthier views of sexuality.

But where exactly should parents begin?

How to Have Those Conversations

Improve the Parent-Child Relationship

Dr. Padilla-Walker said that it’s important to establish a “culture of openness” and that improving the parent-child relationship is the first step. As parents grow closer to their children by praising them, spending time with them, and keeping an open dialogue, conversations about sex will become more comfortable and natural.

Improve the Frequency and Timing of Conversations About Sexuality

She also suggested ways that parents can improve the frequency and timing of conversations about sexuality. It’s not enough for parents to initiate one big sex talk with their children, Dr. Padilla-Walker said, and parents shouldn’t postpone those conversations until their children are sexually active or curious. Rather, parents and children should discuss sexuality often and early, while parents “pre-arm” their kids.

Focus on the Positives

Finally, Dr. Padilla-Walker recommended that parents focus on the positives of waiting to become sexually active, as well as the positive aspects of sexuality in marriage.

Our friends at the Comprehensive Clinic provide these additional instructions, in a separate blog post:

  • avoid using slang, euphemisms, or metaphors when talking about sex
  • Give your children age-appropriate sexual education
  • avoid “reactive sex ed”

“Parents are the scaffolding that will help their children learn about healthy sexuality,” Dr. Padilla-Walker concluded. Adolescents will be better off when their parents help them build a healthy framework.

Dr. Padilla-Walker’s full lecture is available here.

 

Cutler Lecture: Breaking the Silence: Proactive Parent-Child Communication about Healthy Sexuality

It’s almost time for the 2017 Virginia F. Cutler Lecture, one of the college‘s most prestigious annual lectures. This year’s speaker is Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker, a School of Family Life professor who studies parenting and media influences during adolescence and emerging adulthood.

Dr. Padilla-Walker’s lecture is titled “Breaking the Silence: Proactive Parent-Child Communication about Healthy Sexuality.” She will present current research findings on parent-child communication about sexuality and will focus on primary stumbling blocks to quality communication. The lecture will also compare LDS and non-LDS families on communication about sexuality using both quantitative and qualitative data. Suggestions for how to improve communication and promote healthy sexuality will be highlighted. Light refreshments will follow the lecture.

The lecture series is named after Virginia F. Cutler, former dean of the College of Family Living (now the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences). Dr. Cutler cared deeply about women and people in other nations, and her career took her across the globe as she served people in Thailand, Indonesia and Ghana.

 

 

 

Men Who Do Housework, and Men Who Don’t

If you’ve been following FHSS‘s blog for long, you’ve seen our posts about sociology professor Dr. Renata Forste and her research on the gendered division of housework. She gave the 2016 Cutler Lecture on this subject, her area of expertise. More and more women are joining the workforce (accounting for 46.8% of the U.S. labor force), which means that families are evolving to share responsibilities between parents. During her Cutler Lecture, Dr. Forste cited Arlie Hochschild’s book The Second Shift, which suggests that men who do housework…

  • have a strong male identity.
  • have a more holistic, nuanced notion of their role as fathers.
  • have wives who facilitate their involvement in household chores.
  • don’t work late hours at the office.
  • have learned not to view housework as women’s work.
  • have happier family lives.

And the media is catching up too. Marketers are beginning to target men in advertisements for cleaning products, Dr. Forste said, and today’s men “have a more elaborate notion of fathering than previous generations.”


Dr. Forste’s full lecture is available here.

This post is thirtieth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

Do We Devalue Housework?

“Housework is something you do that nobody notices until you don’t do it,” said BYU sociology professor Renata Forste in a recent lecture on the devaluation of housework and its relationship to women. In our society, she explained, we do not value housework, certainly not as highly as paid labor, because it’s less visible and cleaning the home and doing laundry have been chiefly done by females. An underlying assumption seems to have been formed that “if women can do it, it must not be that important or that hard.”

But, Forste posited, housework is just as integral and essential as paid labor, and should be valued and shared, for a variety of reasons. She discussed why here, but you can watch a brief highlight here:


Froste is the director of BYU’s Kennedy Center as well as a professor in the sociology department.

This post is twenty-second in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

Do Women do More Housework than Men? Sociology Professor to Speak on this at Annual Cutler Lecture

renata
Dr. Renata Forste

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, both mom and dad work full time in close to half of two-parent American families, However, does equal time at home mean equal time doing housework? FHSS Sociology professor Dr. Renata Forste will answer the question of “women’s work and the gendered division of housework” at an upcoming lecture. With regards to the importance of addressing this topic, she says: “it is because we live in a complex world where economic opportunities are constantly changing and I think that young couples need a broader set of skills in order to manage family and work life in today’s labor market.”

The Virginia F. Cutler Lecture will be held on February 23 at 7pm in room 250 of the Spencer W. Kimball Tower. Student parking is available in nearby Y lots. Visitor parking is available just east of the Wilkinson Center (enter from 900 East).

What is the Difference?

Statistics show, in fact, that while men are assuming more household responsibilities these days, the bulk of the responsibility generally falls on the woman in a two-parent family. The 2015 American Time Use Survey, for instance, found that: “on an average day, 85 percent of women and 67 percent of men spent some time doing household activities such as housework, cooking, lawn care, or financial and other household management. On the days they did household activities, women spent an average of 2.6 hours on such activities, while men spent 2.1 hours. On an average day, 22 percent of men did housework–such as cleaning or laundry–compared with 50 percent of women. Forty-three percent of men did food preparation or cleanup, compared with 70 percent of women. Men were slightly more likely to engage in lawn and garden care than were women–12 percent compared with 8 percent.” 

One may be tempted to ask, looking at these data, whether women are just structured for housework? The answer, of course, is more complicated than that. Reporter Bryce Covert says no, “…there’s no biological determinant for housework. No gender is physically predisposed to want to do the dishes or take out the trash.” Dr. Forste’s lecture, then, will be timely. retro-1291738_960_720 “I hope that it will get young people thinking about family roles, both economic and domestic – and about the tools or skills they should develop to have a successful family life given the uncertainties and complexities of the future.  I hope they begin to see family work as ‘work’, not divided by gender.”

Virginia F. Cutler

This lecture is part of a series of annual presentations dedicated to the memory of Virginia Farrer Cutler, whospent her entire life educating people on the home and family. While she served as the University of Utah’s Head of the Home Economics Department, she founded their Family Home Living Center. She later went on to become the dean of BYU’s College of Family living, now known as the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

Throughout her lifetime, Dr. Cutler served in many capacities and received a plethora of awards. These include: “United States delegate to the World Forum on Women, Brussels, 1962,” “appointed by President Nixon to the Consumer Advisory Council, 1972-1975,” “Utah Mother of the year, 1972,” and “distinguished service awards from the University of Utah and Cornell University.”

Who do you think does the most housework?