Stepfathers influence their stepson’s likelihood of engaging in sexual activity

About one-third of all children in the United States will have lived with a remarried or cohabiting parent before they reach adulthood. When the relationship between a stepfather and stepchild is close, the stepfather may actually influence his stepchild’s attitudes towards sex.


According to a study featured in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, there was an average of 5 million children living in a stepfamily household in 2001 (with the majority of those living with their biological mother and a stepfather). This number was up from 4.5 million children living in stepfamily households in 1991. According to this study, about one-third of all children in the United States will have lived with a remarried or cohabiting parent before they reach adulthood. There has been previous research conducted on the stepfather-stepchild relationship and the attitudes stepchildren have toward sex. Many children tend to view their step-parents as friends or advisors who hold less authority than their own biological parents and stepfathers may have only minimal impact on their stepchild’s attitudes toward sexual activity. However, some previous studies have found that a stepfather’s presence may be influential on a stepchild in that they can provide cohesion, support, control, and emotional closeness that many biological fathers provide in traditional family settings. Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and narrowed their sample to adolescents who were living in households that were headed by biological mothers. The stepfathers in these families were examined, as was the overall parental involvement and maternal attitudes toward sex. The researchers found that the greater the involvement was between adolescents and their stepfathers, the less likely the adolescents were to engage in sexual activity; however, this association mainly held true for males. Females’ attitudes towards sex seemed to be tied more to their religious beliefs and their biological mothers’ attitudes towards sex. The researchers of this study noted that different factors seem to influence males’ and females’ motivations to participate in sexual activity and prevention programs should be structured with these differences in mind.1


1Stepfather Involvement and Adolescents’ Disposition Toward Having Sex, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Vol. 39, No. 2 June 2007, pp. 82-89.


Printed with permission from the Concerned Parents Report.

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