Parental notification laws for minors' access to contraception: what do parents say?

Marla E Eisenberg, Carolyne Swain, Linda H Bearinger, Renee E Sieving, Michael D Resnick
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 2005, 159 (2): 120-5

BACKGROUND: Recent years have seen new challenges to laws protecting minors' confidential access to reproductive health services. Little research has explored parental views on the issue.

OBJECTIVE: To examine parents' views about laws requiring parental notification (PNLs) when minor children seek to obtain prescription contraceptives, the exceptions parents would endorse, and the consequences they would expect.

DESIGN: Fifteen-minute telephone surveys conducted in 2002.

SETTING: Minnesota and Wisconsin.

PARTICIPANTS: Population-based sample of 1069 parents of adolescents aged 13 to 17 years with a working telephone number. An additional 1095 eligible parents declined and 360 were not available to participate.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Views about PNLs ("Do you think a law requiring notification of parents when a teen requests birth control from a clinic is a good idea, a bad idea, or neither a good nor a bad idea?").

RESULTS: Of the eligible parents, 42.4% completed the survey. More than half (55.1%) of participants thought PNLs were a good idea. However, 96.1% of parents expected at least 1 negative consequence and 47.6% expected 5 or more negative consequences to result with the enactment of PNLs. For exceptions to PNLs, 85.5% of parents endorsed at least 1, and 29.7% endorsed 5 to 6. Each additional anticipated positive consequence of enacting PNLs was significantly associated with more than twice the odds of favoring PNLs (odds ratio [OR], 2.28), and each additional negative consequence was associated with lower odds of supporting PNLs (OR, 0.87). Likewise, each additional exception endorsed was associated with lower odds of supporting PNLs (OR, 0.71).

CONCLUSIONS: Many parents hold complex views on the need for confidentiality and the appropriate involvement of parents in adolescent health care services. Educating parents about the potential negative consequences of parental notification could change their support of PNLs.

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