Finally, Something That’s Not All Mom’s Fault

As mothers, we are often bombarded by one study or another that shows how badly we are screwing up our kids. Prenatal depression inhibits their speech development. Our drinking habits indicate whether or not they will have a problem with booze. How we express our irritation makes our children more prone to temper tantrums. Geez. As if keeping them happy, fed and clothed weren’t enough – we have to deconstruct every aspect of our personalities and behaviors to make sure we’re not constantly doing irreparable damage.

Which is why it is so refreshing to see a study that takes the pressure off of our backs for a minute. According to a new study by New York University professor Vincent Guilamo-Ramos and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), how fathers communicate with their kids about sex has a huge bearing on future sexual behavior.

The idea that fathers play a significant role in the development of their kids’ approach to sex has received some support in a new evidence review. Studies in the review suggest that adolescents have less sex if their fathers talk to them more about sexual matters…

Closeness with fathers at the beginning of a study was significantly associated with daughters delaying starting sex after a year of follow-up. A single study on father-son HIV prevention found that more communication about sex was linked to increased abstinence in the six-month study period.

The study is ground-breaking because most studies done on a father’s role in the family have to do with how he functions as a provider, or whether he is merely present. Isn’t it crazy, that in this day and age we still don’t expect fathers to be around? The reason that moms are always feeling the pressure is because until recently, we have been the only ones held under a microscope.

… to date most parent-based research on adolescent sexual risk behavior has neglected the role of fathers, a missed opportunity to contribute to their adolescent children’s health and well-being. While it is well-established that parenting is closely linked with a teenager’s sexual health and reproductive outcomes, it is mothers that, to date, have drawn most of the attention of researchers …

Mommy-guilt is a serious thing. We all have it. How could we not? I’m happy to share the wealth with my husband. Let some things be his fault for once! But seriously, if even researchers and scientists are putting our family structures into these archaic, stereotypical boxes – how can we hope to learn anything about anything? Some dads stay home. Some moms are providers. We have family units that consist of two dads or two moms. Our families are evolving and changing and it is pretty great. It’s about time the research caught up with us.

(photo: Andresr/

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