Archive for the ‘Pediatrics’ Tag

Gay adolescents effected by parents’ reactions to coming out

A new study released today in the journal Pediatrics indicates that gay adolescents are greatly impacted by how their parents react to them “coming out.”  In short, youths whose parents are loving and supportive have better outcomes than those whose parents react negatively.

Among other findings, the study showed that teens who experienced negative feedback were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times as vulnerable to severe depression and more than three times at risk of drug use.

More significantly, Ryan said, ongoing work at San Francisco State suggests that parents who take even baby steps to respond with composure instead of rejection can dramatically improve a gay youth’s mental health outlook.

Check out the article (linked to above) for the definitions and methodology of the study along with more details on the findings.  The study was conducted by a team of researchers from San Francisco State University’s Cesar Chavez Institute and was led by Caitlin Ryan, the director of adolescent health initiatives.  The study took three years to perform.

The story indicates that more gays and lesbians are coming out earlier in life, with the average age among those in the studies being about 16.

“So many families of children who are gay, bisexual or transgender, particularly families of gay male youth, think that if they are tough on the kid and tell him how unsatisfactory his gay lifestyle is to the family, he will have it knocked out of him,” Vermund said.

Vermund said he also was impressed by Ryan’s finding that a little bit of familial acceptance could go a long way in increasing a child’s chances for future happiness.

“The Southern Baptist doesn’t have to become a Unitarian,” he said. “Someone can still be uncomfortable with their child’s sexual orientation, but if they are somewhat more accepting and do the best the can, they will do the youth a lot of good. That to me is an important message.”

In the event that we want to prevent depression, the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, and suicide, the results of the study are worth considering.   If the findings of this study are accurate and withstand further scrutiny, maybe they have something to tell us about the way we treat not just homosexual youths, but adult homosexuals in our society as well.

Watching certain TV shows correlates with teen pregnancy

The results of an interesting study that’s been reported on today demonstrates a meaningful positive correlation between the amount of sexual content that teens view on TV and their chances of getting or causing a pregnancy.

The RAND Corp. study is the first of its kind to identify a link between teenagers’ exposure to sexual content on TV and teen pregnancies. The study, released Monday and published in the November edition of the journal Pediatrics, found that teens exposed to high levels of sexual content on television were twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy in the following three years as teens with limited exposure.

The study was paid for by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and follows a 2004 study by some of the same scientists that indicated watching sexual content on TV can make teens more likely to have sex at earlier ages.  The authors, lead by Anita Chandra, point out that teen pregnancy is a complicated issue influenced by many variables.  While the study found that the correlation remained when factors like grades, family structure and parents’ education level were considered, the study didn’t control for other issues, like self esteem, family values, and income.  Looking at those variables would be a good next step.

The researchers are calling for more realistic plotlines in television that address the possible consequences of sexual activity, which is rarely, if ever, shown as leading to unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. “Right now the message teens are getting is that everything is great, and there really are no consequences to sex,” Chandra said.

Two recent high-profile teen pregnancies, those of Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin, also have some of these qualities.  Both individuals have many advantages in terms of finances and family that will help them as they move forward and raise their children; they won’t be as inconvenienced and limited by having to raise children as many young women would be, possibly giving a false impression on how easy and glamorous it is to raise children as a teen who hasn’t even graduated from high school yet.

Many social conservatives will welcome this news.  If so, they should also accept the massive amounts of data that indicate that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work to prevent teen pregnancy or STDs.  (See, for instance, here, here, and here.) All sex education includes information on abstinence; abstinence education isn’t the problem, the problem is abstinence-only sex ed that excludes information on everything else—and which frequently even give incorrect information to students.

It seems to me that to have the best chances of teens—and other people—making the best sex-related decisions, we should make sure our schools are giving the best information possible and that those messages aren’t being drowned out by a bunch of misleading and unchecked messages from TV and the rest of our society that give people wrong impressions.  Let’s give people good information, help them think critically about the issues involved, and then trust them to make their own decisions.