For Latinx families, talking about sex with kids and young adults can be challenging. Navigating these conversations is especially difficult in low-income and immigrant households that lack access to contraception and hold more conservative views toward dating and premarital sex. But if we’re going to prioritize the sexual and reproductive health of our loved ones, engaging in these discussions is critical.
Research suggests that when parents and family members put aside their own personal discomfort about discussing sex and talk to Latinx youth, that children and teens are more likely to have positive sexual and reproductive health outcomes. The reason for this, according to Power to Decide, a national campaign that raises awareness about teenage pregnancy, is because Latinx teens are most influenced by information that they receive from their parents about relationships and sex.
Currently, Latinas account for 1 in 7 women of reproductive age in the United States. And while unplanned teenage pregnancy is decreasing nationwide, the number of unplanned teen pregnancy rates in Latinx households remains significantly higher than non-Hispanic white and Black teens.
Moreover, studies on teen pregnancy prevention state that one of the most effective ways to decrease these numbers is for Latinx families to speak to their children about sex. In families where young adults, including older siblings, cousins and aunts, speak to someone in their family about contraception, they are less likely to get pregnant.
Additionally, family-child communication also appears to influence the decisions of pregnant teenagers. Latina adolescents who become pregnant and who received pregnancy education from a parent are more likely to terminate a pregnancy than other teenagers.
The power of talking in la familia is critical in decreasing negative perceptions about abortion stigma and sexual and reproductive health outcomes in Latinx adolescents. For this reason, it is imperative that we as a community must talk more openly and honestly about sex.
This is equally important in discussing safe sex in Latinx LGBTQ teens. According to the Center for Disease Control, it is estimated that 84 percent of diagnosed HIV infections in Latino men were attributed through male-to-male sexual contact. LGBTQ and gender non-binary youth who do not receive education about safe sex and what to expect from a partner are more likely to engage in unsafe sex practices. This means that, as a family, we need to talk to youth, not only about how to practice safe sex, but also educate them about sexual violence and consent.
Sexual and reproductive health is a Latinx family issue. When one individual in our family is affected by an unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection or sexual violence — we all suffer together. For this reason, it is crucial that we, as a community, take initiative and learn to navigate conversations with kids and young adults in our family about sex, consent and contraception.
La familia es todo in Latinx households. Prioritize your family’s overall sexual and reproductive health and know that #TalkingIsPower.