Parents play a critical role in promoting healthy behaviors among youth. The roles that parents may play in adolescents’ lives can include guidance on connecting to others, behavior control, respect for individuality and roles in society, modeling of appropriate behavior, and providing for and protecting youth. Parent-child relationships can influence such issues as early sexual initiation, early marriage, substance use, and depression among adolescents. A growing number of programs for adolescents work with parents. Many focus on increasing parent-youth communication, including in regards to reproductive health. Some seek to increase positive parental involvement and monitoring in youth’s lives in general.

A review by the World Health Organization (WHO) identified key roles parents need to play to help protect youth from unhealthy behaviors. The WHO also published a review of existing projects that are working with parents (see links below). Some programs for parents show promising results in improving attitudes, increasing parent-child communication, and decreasing sexual risk-taking by youth. Yet, too few studies have been conducted to warrant firm conclusions about the most effective ways to work with parents so that health outcomes for youth are improved.

Parents also have an important role to play as key stakeholders for youth programs, such as peer education and school-based programs. Involving parents in aspects of these programs may be a valuable way to improve program outcomes and create a more enabling environment.

Helping Parents in Developing Countries Improve Adolescents' Health

This report synthesizes a literature review of research on parenting of adolescents in developing countries and discussion from a technical meeting in 2006 of researchers and program representatives. It organizes findings into five key roles for parents, which programs could target to promote and improve adolescent health (2007).

A Review of Studies of Parent-Child Communication About Sexuality and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa

This journal article summarizes the findings from a literature review on parent-child communication in sub-Saharan Africa, including on frequency and content of discussions, factors associated with sexuality communication, communication style and tone, barriers to communication, outcomes, and intervention studies (2011).

Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in Developing Countries: An Overview of Trends and Interventions

This journal article summarizes the trends in adolescent reproductive health in developing countries, from early marriage to sexual activity, contraceptive use and pregnancy, and discussing various communication and intervention components—including those working with parents—to advance their health (2009).

Summaries of Projects in Developing Countries Assisting the Parents of Adolescents

This report summarizes 34 projects that assist parents of adolescents in promoting healthy adolescent development and preventing health risks (2007).

Ten Tips For Parents To Help Their Children Avoid Teen Pregnancy

A research-based list of practical tips for parents and adults to help the young people in their lives avoid pregnancy and pass safely through adolescence (2007).