A project of the Child Trends News Service supported by the National Science Foundation

Having “The Talk”

BOSTON, Mass. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It’s one of those subjects that some parents may find quite awkward to discuss with their kids. But experts say that healthy attitudes toward romantic relationships and sex are fostered early on. A new study by the Harvard University project Making Caring Common found that “the talk” between parents and their kids about sex and respect often doesn’t happen.

Almost every week there’s a new report of a high-profile person accused of sexual harassment. Harvard child psychologist Rick Weissbourd, EdD, studies attitudes toward sex and sexual harassment. His team surveyed 3,000 students ages 18 to 25 from diverse backgrounds. Researchers found that 87 percent had experienced cat-calls, unwanted advances, or name calling; when it comes to sexual harassment, there’s a disconnect.

Weissbourd told Ivanhoe, “In our research, a lot of boys think cat-calling is flattering to girls. A lot of girls say it’s offensive to them, and frightening to them.”

The researchers also found that 75 percent of the young women they surveyed did not discuss sexual harassment with parents or teachers.

“This is something that is pervasive, more pervasive than bullying, and we’re not talking about it,” detailed Weissbourd.

Weissbourd said parents need to define sexual harassment for their kids. Use popular media to start the talk. If a song comes on the radio with degrading lyrics, talk about the negative impacts of those terms. If there’s a misogynistic scenario played out on TV, call attention to it. Explain that it’s not something to joke about with peers.

You can find more recommendations on talking to your kids about sexual harassment at www.makingcaringcommon.org.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

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