Parents have the potential to play an important role in their children’s sex education. Indeed, many of you reading this probably received a version of the “birds and bees” talk from them at some point. For some of you, this talk may have been your very first introduction to the topic of sex (even if it was a little awkward).
However, some people are more likely to receive sex education from their parents than others. A new study suggests that your odds of having the “birds and bees” talk depends on your birth order, meaning whether you were a first-born or later-born child.
This conclusion was reached through an analysis of data from the Natsal-3, a nationally representative British sex survey of over 15,000 adults aged 16-74 conducted between 2010 and 2012 . The researchers leading this study looked at how the order in which participants were born was linked to whether they learned about sex from their parents and/or their siblings.
It turned out that first-born children were the most likely to get a “birds and bees” talk from at least one parent, and this was true for both men (48%) and women (37%). The numbers for middle-born men (40%) and women (29%) dropped, while they appeared to rebound a little for last-born men (45%) and women (34%).
Although later-born kids were less likely to learn about sex from their parents, they became more likely to learn about it from their siblings. Very few first-born children (about 1%) learned about sex from a sibling; however, among middle- and last-born children, nearly 1 in 5 said they learned about sex from a brother or sister.
Why are later-born children less likely to talk to their parents about sex? We can’t say for sure, but perhaps some parents find it so awkward the first time around that they don’t want to repeat it. Or maybe they ask their oldest child to do it for them. Or maybe it’s something else.
With all of that said, it’s worth highlighting that less than half of participants in this survey said that they even received a sex talk from their parents. And even fewer said that their parents were their primary source of sex education (for men, the numbers ranged from 11.6-16.9%, depending on birth order; for women, the numbers ranged from 6.1-8.6%).
This tells us that there’s a lot of room for parents to step up their sex education efforts. And, importantly, this is something that most kids would probably welcome: research has found that kids say their parents are the most influential figures in their lives when it comes to making decisions about sex and that it’d be easier for them to make sexual decisions if they could talk more about sex with their parents .
I know all of this is easier said than done, but if you’re a parent (or plan to become one) and you’re looking for tips on how to talk to your kids about sex, check out this article for some helpful information.
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 Elton, L., Palmer, M., & Macdowall, W. (2018). Birth order and parental and sibling involvement in sex education. A nationally-representative analysis. Sex Education.
 Albert, B. (2010). With one voice 2010: America’s adults and teens sound off about teen pregnancy. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Image Credit: 123RF
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