Ethical parenting of sexually active youth: Ensuring safety while enabling development

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By bhadmin February 2, 2021

The protection of children from harm is commonly accepted as the cardinal duty of parents. In the USA, where young people’s sexuality is often regarded with anxiety, attempts to restrict adolescent sexual behaviour are seen as ethically justified and even required of ‘good’ parents. Running counter to popular anxiety surrounding young people’s sexuality is a mounting argument that a degree of sexual experimentation can benefit young people’s current psychological and sexual well-being and is essential to their future competence in the sexual and romantic domains. Thus, parents’ unilateral restriction of sexual behaviour may constitute a violation of young people’s developmental rights insofar as it impedes their progress towards autonomy and competence. However, protecting young people from sexual harm need not be mutually exclusive of supporting their freedom to sexual exploration and expression. In fact, critical analysis of conventional wisdom regarding young people’s sexuality and its presumed dangers permits a fundamental reorientation to the ethics of parenting sexually active youth, such that enabling sexual development is understood as fully compatible with ensuring sexual safety.

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