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Teenagers whose parents keep a close eye on their comings and goings may hang on to their virginity longer, a new study suggests.

This parental influence was particularly strong among girls, according to findings published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The study included 307 14- to 18-year-olds who had not yet had sex. Researchers led by Dr. John A. Sieverding, who was with the University of California, San Francisco at the time, interviewed the teenagers about their attitudes toward sex and whether they intended to have sex in the next 6 months…

They also answered questions about their friends’ sexual behavior and whether their parents “successfully” kept tabs on where they were when they were not at home.

Overall, the study found, teenagers whose parents truly knew their comings and goings were less likely to intend to have sex in the near future. When the researchers interviewed the teens again 6 months later, some said they had started having sex — particularly those who had said they intended to do so.

A parent’s watchful eye had a stronger influence on girls’ intentions, even among those with a “favorable attitude” toward sex, the researchers found.

Parents who successfully monitor their kids, as opposed to those who try but fail, may be better communicators, according to Sieverding and his colleagues. Parents and children, they point out, must have an open, truthful relationship in order for parents to know where their kids are and whom they are with.

Parents who are “skilled” in communication, the researchers note, may also be more successful at instilling their beliefs about sex in their children.

[Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, August 2005; Reuters Health, 08/11/05; National Abstinence Clearinghouse, 11Aug05]