By Stacy Beller Stryer, M.D.
I read an interesting article in the New York Times last week, “Inside the Mind of the Boy Dating Your Daughter.” When I saw the title, I was instantly drawn to it because my older daughter is going to enter high school in the fall (yikes!) and has recently begun talking about boys. She currently attends a magnet school where most of her classmates are female. She just mentioned, for the first time, that there are no boys to like in her program, which makes for boring sleepover talks (but makes her mother exceedingly happy). Given that I think she’s the cat’s meow, I thought I could get a little “inside information” from reading the article before throwing her into the world of male testosterone and upperclassmen.
However, the article totally surprised me. Coming from a family of 3 girls and having 2 daughters, myself, I am much more comfortable figuring out what a girl might be thinking or feeling than a boy. I must admit that I believed the folklore that teen boys basically have sex on their brains. But, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Adolescence, this is not the case. Researchers had 105 10th grade teens complete a survey about sex, love and relationships. Reportedly, most boys said the main reason they would date someone was because they “really liked her.” The second most common reason they wanted to date someone was to get to know her better, and because they were physically attracted to her. Of note, 40% of the boys stated that they had already been sexually active and 14% wanted to have sex to lose their virginity. We must remember, however, that this was a relatively small sample size done in one school.
As a follow-up, the New York Times asked people to send in their comments about the article, and they discussed the results in the Week in Review. Many of the comments sent in were from adult men, who didn’t believe the teens answered honestly because, as these adults remembered, (?is their memory correct) they thought about sex, and only sex as teens.
An important and notable comment made by Dr. Andrew Smiler, the author of the study, is that parents are less likely to talk to their sons about relationships than their daughters. He stressed the need to talk to boys frequently about relationships, respect, trust and sex.
This gives me some hope that my daughter won’t be bombarded with a storm of testosterone the moment she enters high school. Actually, I am not too worried because I have been preparing her for the world of “boys” since she was much younger. For years we have talked about puberty, and as she has become older we have added relationships, values, possible uncomfortable situations, and waiting to have sex. I believe that this will carry her a long way. And, according to research, I am right, because telling a teenager to wait to have sex actually makes it more likely that they will.
As parents, we must remember to talk to both our daughters and our sons. Our discussions should start early. In elementary school, they should know what puberty is and how boys and girls develop. They should also learn about love and respect. As preteens, they should have talks regarding dating, relationships, and sex. If you wait too long, they will not hear you, or they will already have had to deal with a sexual situation and may not have known how to handle it. Amy Mirion and Charles Miron, authors of How to Talk With Teens About Love, Relationships, and S-E-X, also discuss how important it is to have small, ongoing dialogue rather than the one “big sex talk.” They suggest that, when parents talks with boys, they be direct and simple, and that they include topics such as love, respect, and values. They also stress the need for boys to actually be told to wait before having sex.
Just in case, maybe I’ll send some pepper spray to school with my daughter next year …
For more information on how to talk to your children about relationships, sex, and other risky behavior, check out the following websites: