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Engaging in Risky Sexual Behavior? Thank Your Dad

Picture of Nadia Elysse
US Editorial Team Lead
Updated: 14 June 2017
When it comes to risky sexual behavior, is it nature or nurture? A new study from the University of Utah says teenagers’ sex habits may be a combination of both—especially as it relates to daughters and their dads.

“It’s not enough for a dad to just be in the home,” lead author of the study, Danielle J. DelPriore, said in a press release. “The quality of a father’s relationship with his daughter has implications for both the overall monitoring she receives from her parents as well as her likelihood of affiliating with more promiscuous or more prosocial friends.”

The study, published in Developmental Psychology, used sisters who spent varying amounts of times with their fathers to decide how much the girls’ exposure to their dads impacted their sexual behavior. By comparing the sisters, the researchers found that factors including birth order, time spent, and quality of fathering all played a role in proclivity to engage in risky sexual behavior. Older sisters were less likely to engage in sexually risky behavior when the father’s parenting was high quality. The opposite was found for older sisters with low-quality parenting from their fathers.

Previous studies have shown that there is a direct link between improper parental supervision and behavioral issues in teens. But this study is a first-of-its kind look at the daddy-daughter relationship and sexual risk taking.

“There is a lot of emphasis on the effects of divorce and parental separation on children, but this research shows that what may be more important, at least in this case, is what dad is doing while he is in the home,” DelPriore said.