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Nov 02, 2015 05:31 PM EST

A new review is reinforcing what many of us probably already know: having the "sex talk" with your children is a necessary and effective evil.

Researchers from North Carolina State University in Raleigh found that these awkward conversations with parents have been tied to with less risky behavior among teens, Reuters Health reported.

Risky sexual behavior among adolescents is a serious public health problem because of the risk of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies. Communication between parents and adolescents is one factor that could positively affect safer sex behavior among teens, including the use of contraception and condoms. However, such open communication about sex does not always take place because embarrassment and inaccurate knowledge can get in the way.

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"Communicating about sex can be uncomfortable for both parents and teens, but these conversations are a critical component of helping teens make safe and healthy decisions," Laura Widman, lead researcher of the study and an assistant professor in the department of psychology, told HealthDay. "What parents say to their kids about sex matters."

For the study, researchers reviewed medical literature and pooled data from 30 years of research with more than 25,000 adolescents from 52 articles to examine the effect of parent-adolescent sexual communication on safer sex behavior among youth.

The data indicate a small but significant positive effect of parent-adolescent sexual communication associated with safer sex behavior. That association was stronger for girls and stronger for adolescents who discussed sexual topics with their mothers. The association between parent communication and adolescents' contraceptive and condom use was significantly stronger for girls than boys, the study reports.

"Results of this study confirm that parent-adolescent sexual communication is a protective factor for youth, and a focus on communication remains justified in future intervention efforts," the study concludes.

The findings are detailed in the journal JAMA Pediatrics

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