Female students who said their dads were “involved” in their lives as teens are more likely to use protection when having sex in college, a positive sign for fathers in an era of increasingly single-parent homes, according to new University of Florida research.
For her master’s thesis in the UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Caroline Payne-Purvis analysed responses from 748 college students in an introductory course at UF. About 60% were females, and 40% male.
Students answered 73 questions, which tried to find out, among other things, aspects of the participants’ adolescent years, their parents’ level of involvement when the students still lived at home, how often they now engage in sexual behaviours, including intercourse and their contraception use during various sexual behaviours.
Payne-Purvis found female students who said their father was “involved” in their lives as teens used condoms more frequently during intercourse.
Females who reported higher rates of father involvement reported engaging in sexual intercourse less frequently and with fewer partners. Furthermore, the more involved mothers were doing a female college student’s adolescence, the more often the young women used hormonal contraceptives.
Payne-Purvis, now an assistant professor in health and kinesiology at the Mississippi University for Women, said it’s hard to explain the finding. One possible explanation she proffers in the paper is that the presence of a father figure in females’ adolescent lives reduces the desire for male attention outside the home.
“The main lesson to take from this study is that in an era of single families, high divorce rates and dual working families, fathers continue to have an impact on their daughters’ lives,” she said. “Additionally, it indicates that situations and relationships from one’s adolescence carry over into early adulthood.”
In the paper, published in the Journal of Adolescent and Family Health, Payne-Purvis wrote that mothers have historically taught their daughters about sex, while fathers have educated their sons about the birds and the bees.
Payne-Purvis’ study was part of a larger examination of contraceptive use among college students. She wrote the paper with Professor Rosemary Barnett and Associate Professor Larry Forthun, both in the UF/IFAS’ family, youth and community sciences department.
(Source: University of Florida, Journal of Adolescent and Family Health)