Parental factors that appear to offer strong protection against the onset of early sexual activity include an intact family structure; parents' disapproval of adolescent sex; teens' sense of belonging to and satisfaction with their families; parental monitoring; and, to a lesser extent, parent-child communication about teen sex and its consequences.

Parents, as teens themselves reveal, are the ones who have the most influence on their children's decisions about sex.

Indeed, two-thirds of all teens share their parents' values on this topic.

The statistics on teen sexuality in the United States are troubling.

About 7 percent of high school students report having had sex before the age of 13.

First, programs and policies that seek to delay sexual activity or to prevent teen pregnancy or STDs should encourage and strengthen family structure and parental involvement.

Doing so may increase these efforts' overall effectiveness.

Not only are these assumptions faulty, they tend to disregard important factors that have been linked to reduced teen sexual activity.

A particularly noticeable omission is parental influence.

Sexual activity at an early age may also affect marital and economic stability later in life.

Among women in their thirties, those who were sexually active during early adolescence are half as likely to be in stable marriages as those who waited until their early twenties to have sex.[8] Early sexual activity is also linked to maternal poverty.

At best, cross-sectional data offer evidence of correlations, e.g., parental disapproval of teen sex is associated with delayed sexual initiation. South, "Community Effects on Youth Sexual Activity," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 540–554; Bersamin, Todd, Fisher et al., "Parenting Practices and Adolescent Sexual Behavior"; Sieving, Mc Neely, and Blum, "Maternal Expectations, Mother-Child Connectedness, and Adolescent Sexual Debut"; Ralph J. Wingood, Richard Crosby et al., "Parental Monitoring: Association with Adolescents' Risk Behavior," Pediatrics, Vol.