Intervention Contributes to Increased Communication Among Teens, Parents About Sex, Alcohol

A group of adolescents reported increased frequency of discussions focused on sex and alcohol after their parents were provided guidance and materials about parent-adolescent communication.

Brief parent-targeted interventions in primary care were found to increase the frequency of parent and adolescent communication (PAC) about sex and alcohol, according to study results published in JAMA Network Open.

The randomized controlled trial examined an intervention in which a health coach conducted a discussion and provided written materials on PAC about sexual and alcohol use behaviors in the lobby of a busy primary care pediatric practice. The coach reviewed key messages and barriers to PAC, and encouraged PAC within 2 weeks. Parents received verbal and written reinforcement of the key messages at the end of the well-care visit and via a follow-up telephone call 2 weeks later.

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The study included 118 parent-adolescent dyads. Parents were mostly women (94.9%), and adolescents were aged 14 (56.8%) or 15 years (43.2%). Of the patients, 53.4% were black, 38.9% were white, and 94.1% were non-Hispanic. The dyads were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: sexual health intervention (n=38), alcohol prevention intervention (n=40), and usual care (n=40).

Participants completed the 20-item Parent-Adolescent Communication Scale 4 months after the well-care visit; a higher score indicated better PAC. The investigators used a 4-point Likert-type scale to measure the frequency of PAC, with 1 indicating not at all or never, and 4 indicating a lot or often.

At baseline, 12.7% of adolescents reported a history of sexual behavior, and 13.6% reported a history of alcohol use. After 4 months, adolescents in both intervention groups reported higher mean frequency scores for PAC about sex (2.32 [95% CI, 1.97-2.66] vs 1.79 [95% CI, 1.50-2.08]; P =.02) and alcohol (2.93 [95% CI, 2.60-3.25] vs 2.40 [95% CI, 2.08-2.72]; P =.03) compared with the usual care group. However, parent-reported frequency scores for communication about sex or alcohol did not differ between groups.

The investigators wrote, “A multisite study with additional measures of PAC and a longer follow-up period is needed to evaluate intervention impact on behaviors.”

“Results suggest that there are innovative strategic opportunities for clinicians in primary care settings to join with parents to effectively achieve better health outcomes among sizable portions of adolescent patients,” they concluded.


Ford CA, Mirman JH, García-España JF, et al. Effect of primary care parent-targeted interventions on parent-adolescent communication about sexual behavior and alcohol use: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(8):e199535.