Role of parents in adolescent sexual activity and contraceptive use in four African countries

Ann Biddlecom, Kofi Awusabo-Asare, Akinrinola Bankole
International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 2009, 35 (2): 72-81

CONTEXT: Parents have an influence on the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents, but evidence from Sub- Saharan Africa is limited. A better understanding of the relationship between different dimensions of parenting and recent sexual activity and contraceptive use is needed in the region.

METHODS: Data were collected in 2004 in nationally representative surveys of 12-19-year-olds in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi and Uganda. Bivariate analysis compared gender differences for two outcomes among unmarried 15-19-year-olds-having had sexual intercourse in the last 12 months and, among those who had had sex in this period, contraceptive use at last sex. Multivariate logistic regression analysis identified associations between these outcomes and coresidence with parents or parent figures, parental monitoring and parent-child communication.

RESULTS: Unmarried adolescents reported moderate to high levels of parental monitoring and low levels of parent-child communication about sexual matters. In all countries, adolescent males who reported low monitoring were at elevated risk of having had sex in the last year (odds ratios, 2.4-5.4), as were their female counterparts in three of the countries (6.9-7.7). Communication with parents was positively associated with sexual activity among Malawian males and Ugandan females (2.2 and 1.5, respectively). Parental monitoring was not associated with contraceptive use at last sex, whereas parent-child communication was associated with such use among Ghanaian females (3.0) and among Ugandan adolescents of both genders (1.9-2.0).

CONCLUSIONS: Programs to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health should include dimensions of parental involvement that can strengthen the program's specific behavior change goals.

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